One of the youngest – and most successful – pre-craft Bourbons in America, Maker’s Mark was born from one man’s dream to create a Bourbon he enjoyed.
Unlike many distilleries that had to struggle through the prohibition era and then the second World War, Maker’s Mark was founded in 1954.
Bill Samuel’s Sr. wanted to make his own perfect Whiskey, and turned to his family’s 170 year old recipe to see what could be done.
The recipe did not seem to meet his exacting standards and he promptly lit it on fire, because of course that’s what you do with a unsatisfactory Whiskey recipe.
But Bill did not like the Whiskey made there and as such, turned his eye to creating a new one.
Samuels also chose to sell Maker’s Mark at a premium price, as it was aged for a year longer than most other Bourbons. It was a hard sell at first, but soon took off and they were one of the first brands to try such a marketing strategy.
Family Owned and Run
The Samuels family had actually been in the Whisky industry for many decades.
Robert Samuels Jr. was based in Bardstown in Kentucky and as well as being in the military, he created Whiskey. His Whiskey was so good that George Washington contracted him to make it for the army.
He passed his distillery on to his son William, who then passed it on to his son Tailor, who in 1844 opened their first commercial distillery.
This passed to his own son, William, in 1898, but unfortunately he passed away that same year. In turn, it went to his son, Lesley Samuels, who moved into a house next door to the legendary Jim Beam, on what was known as Distiller’s Row.
Lesley, was Bill’s father, and Bill had previously tried to convince him to make a smoother Whiskey, but the request was refused and he stuck to his family’s tried and tested recipe (the one that would late go up in smoke).
Eventually Bill took matters into his own hands, and the Maker’s Mark that we know and love today was created.
Red Winter Wheat
The secret to the success of Maker’s Mark apparently lies in the Red Winter Wheat, which makes up 16% of its mash bill.
To find the perfect combination, Bill actually baked loaves of bread using those combinations to uncover which he thought would be nicest. That’s definitely dedication to a cause.
When he fell upon the perfect one, he created a Bourbon, and Maker’s Mark came to fruition.
A huge part of Maker’s Mark is the fact that it’s handmade from start to finish.
And that even includes hand turning the barrels, allowing each one to experience the wide variety of conditions within the warehouse.
The handmade quality of Maker’s Mark is well known and is a big selling point for the brand.
Today the brand is expanding and is becoming more and more popular, but they refuse to modernise. Instead, they are sticking with their traditions and increasing their capacity and production process.
As well as being hand made, each bottle is also individually dipped in wax to give it that signature seal.
This idea came from Bill’s wife Margie, who was keen to make sure the bottles stood out from competitors, and reflected the uniqueness of the liquid inside.
In fact, she was the first one to do the dipping, taking each bottle into her kitchen. Today this is still done by hand, but on a mass scale. You can even do it yourself on a distillery tour!