Maker's Mark is the fifth most popular a brand of bourbon whiskey in the world. The Maker's Mark Distillery is located in Loretto, Kentucky and produces 6 brands, labels and variations of Bourbon. Maker's Mark is owned by Beam Suntory, Inc., since 2005 which is headquartered in Osaka, Japan but its North American Headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois.
T. W. Samuels was the most prominent family member in the early years although he was actually in the third generation of the family that distilled whiskey. In addition to distilling, ole T. W. was also the Nelson County Kentucky Sheriff. In the waning years of the U. S. Civil War, T. W. convinced confederate soldiers Jessie and Frank James to surrender. It didn't hurt that he was their step-cousin and they knew each other as teens when T. W.'s uncle Dr. Rueben Samuels married the James' mother Zarelda. Years later the James Gang went on to become some of the most notorious outlaws in U. S. history by robbing banks, stagecoaches and railroads.
It was T. W. that also opened the family's first commercial distillery on the family farm at Samuel's Depot, Kentucky just a short distance from where the Jim Beam Distillery sits today. Sometime in the late 1870's or early 1880's T. W.'s son William L. Samuels took over the family business. In 1933 when prohibition finally came to an end T. William (Bill) Samuels, Sr. actually viewed the 170 year-old family recipe as sub-par and tried several in times as a young adult to convince his father Leslie B. Samuels to change it. They did not and went back to business as usual, producing their family's bourbon.
After being rebuffed Bill decided to create a new better recipe and burned the only copy of the family recipe in a trash can in the living room almost burning down the house after the curtains also went up in flames. Bill, a meticulous person and craftsman believed through trial and error he could figure out the best tasting bourbon. Over a period of six and a half years, he continued to experiment with different variations of recipes. Not having the money or luxury of being able to distill each recipe into bourbon and wait five years to try the result, he baked many recipes into loaves of bread and had his family try them with him. Once they decided on the perfect combination of corn, wheat and barley Bill decided to buy a distillery.
The Maker's Mark Distillery itself was founded by Bill, Sr. in 1953 when he purchased the old Burk's Springs Distillery in Happy Hollow, Kentucky (later Loretto) for $35,000. It was Bill's wife Margie who named the new bourbon after one of her favorite hobbies. She collected fine English pewter and loved the markings that the silversmith placed on their handcrafted work. It was Margie that came up with the idea of dipping each bottle into red wax as well as the shape and label for the bottle. Margie actually heated up her electric deep fryer on the kitchen table to hand dip the bottles. Margie also authored the iconic star and SIV logo which has won countless awards. She took the star from the name of the family farm, "Star Hill Farm," the "S" from the surname Samuels and the IV because Bill was the fourth generation in his family to distill whiskey. Maker's Mark started distilling small batch Bourbon in 1954 with the first barrel being ready for consumers in 1958. The unique red wax dripping dipped square bottles became an instant success.
Bill Samuels, Jr. began working at the distillery as the production manager in 1954 and was named Master Distiller several years later. It was Bill, Jr. who insisted on being the only distillery to painstakingly rotate their bourbon barrels in the warehouse. Throughout the 1970's the brand marketed itself with the catchphrase, "It tastes expensive ... and is!" In 1975 Bill Samuels, Jr was named President and C. E. O. of Maker's Mark a title that he held until his retirement in 2011.
For many years Maker's has ignored the popular fad of adding variations or flavored whiskies. But in 2008 Bill, Jr. relented and started experimenting with new ideas and ways to change their perfect recipe. After dozens and dozens of attempts, it was determined that they couldn't improve on Maker's Mark and decided to start with regular Maker's and then attempt changes in other ways than tinkering with the mash bill. In 2009 Maker's Mark introduced its premixed "Maker's Mark Mint Julep Whiskey" and in 2010 Maker's Mark releases only its second variation in its 57-year history by launching Maker's 46. Maker's 46 is the same Maker's Mark aged for four years, then added to a new barrel constructed of 33 staves but 10 of these staves are seared virgin French Oak Staves instead of charred American white oak. It also had a stave heavily charred on both sides inserted into the barrel and aged for 6 more months in the winter. Maker's has now dynamited a limestone bourbon cellar that stays at a constant 50 degrees so they can distill Maker's 46 all year long.
In April 2011 after Bill, Jr. retired his son Robert (Rob) Samuels took over the distillery and promptly introduced Maker's Mark Cask Strength in 2014. Cask Strength is a version of Maker's that comes straight out of the barrel, uncut and unfiltered at 108 to 114 proof. Then just a year after that Maker's launches a variation called Maker's Mark Private Select in 2015. Private Select is a Single Barrel Top Shelf bourbon release based on different stave constructions of the vessel it is aged in. There are five different stave pieces that include a Baked American Pure Stave, a Seared French Cuvee Stave, a Maker’s 46 stave, a Roasted French Mocha stave and a Toasted French Spice stave. Consumers can choose any ten staves to intermingle in the barrel and with 1,001 possible stave combinations, participants can create a customized finish and taste profile that is uniquely their own. Maker's Mark also makes a Black Seal variation that is made and shipped exclusively to Japan. Maker's Mark is also one of several distillers that makes dozens and dozens of commemorative or limited edition bottles, these do contain the same flagship Maker's Mark in them for consumers to enjoy.
Click On first Slide to see all of Maker's Mark's North American Whiskies
All photos of Marker's Mark are provided by Maker's Mark Distillery