Waxing Poetic


Although all bottles of Maker’s Mark are hand-dipped in wax, this bottle was obviously an over-enthusiastic effort

We can go back over 100 years and tell you about the early days of this distillery, but its modern tale began in 1953 when Bill Samuels Sr. began baking bread. The 6th generation bourbon-maker and his wife were determined to produce a better formula for what Mrs. Samuels referred to as an already “pedestrian”-tasting spirit.

So Samuels baked bread.

Experimenting with several grains, he finally achieved the balance he sought for the bourbon that would become a softer, gentler style than its predecessors. The answer lay in the winter wheat, enough of a variation from the ubiquitous rye that was said to be so harsh an ingredient as to “blow your ears off.”

And the name? Well, it’s not called Samuels Straight Bourbon Whisky*. Armed with enough marketing savvy that was ahead of her time, Mrs. Samuels, a collector of fine pewter, made note of the craftsman’s seal on every piece. A sign of an artisan collectible, her suggestion of the name Maker’s Mark was readily accepted.

The grounds at the distillery are an idyllic setting for Americana


The Maker’s Mark Difference

About a half hour’s drive off the Kentucky Interstate and miles past other well-known bourbon distilleries, Burke’s Mill on Star Hill Farm, home to Maker’s Mark Distillery, is an authentic Historical Landmark.

It is now run by Bill Samuels, Jr. with Master Distiller Dave Pickerell and Assistant V.P./Operations Kevin Smith at the helm.

With its own water source and its limestone shelf, this is a utopian setting for the beloved American spirit.

Made from 70% corn(bourbon must comprise a minimum of 51%), 16% wheat and 14% malt, Maker’s Mark captures the palate with a superb entry. Immediately, the bouquet creates a pleasurable greeting. The toffee and sweetly scented spices are delicate, but not feminine. On the palate, the dollop of vanilla cream and woodsy resin morphs into a who’s who of bourbon descriptors: Concentrated without domination.

The labor-intensive process is proof enough: corn bought directly from farmers, not genetically modified or culled from grain elevators. Over 216 bushels of grain are entered into the separate mash tubs, which stir and slow cook until the timing is right for fermentation.

The Maker’s Mark recipe is designed for small batches. Every chef knows that changing the formula for a larger crowd may alter the taste of the food. Each recipe calls for 18 or 19 barrels of sour mash bourbon. Only 240 barrels are produced per day.

Maker’s Mark is synonymous with consistency, its grain-flavored characteristics memorable on the tongue long after it is sipped. Fully matured, this “forward palate” sweet bourbon is sophisticated and balanced – no wonder it is a choice for cocktails. Maker’s Mark lends its drinker a proprietary assembly of generous aroma and graceful notes, leaving its mark behind.

Similar to the natural spring water that flows through the plant, the spring water used for the long, slow cook of Maker’s Mark is filtered through the natural limestone soil of Kentucky.

 While all American bourbons have that “e” as in Whiskey, Maker’s Mark is spelled without the “e” to signify the family’s Scottish ancestry.

Chicago’s On-Premise Talent Visits Maker’s Mark

Patterson’s Editor-in-Chief Meridith May joined the Maker’s Mark tour with a dozen Chicago bartenders and on-premise G.M.s


At the Quart House: Karl Hendershot, G.M. for Chicago’s Cobra Lounge and Future Brands’ Sales Manager Brian Kirk (Metro Chicago) stand at what is the oldest standing package retail store in the U.S.


Kevin Smith, VP Operations for Maker’s Mark with the N9NE Group’s Chicago Ghost Bar crew Adam Margolies  (Manager), and Bartenders Michael Cristiani and Dion Lane.


Jason Hendrix, G.M. for Chicago’s Parlor American, noses Maker’s Mark at 110-proof, before it is aged in barrel.
Steve Sipp of Parlor American

The Chicago bartenders gather in a barrel house. Maker’s Mark operates 20 warehouses to store barrels, each approximately six stories tall, where they sleep for six years. The labor-intensive practice of rotating the barrels from top to bottom and from center to margins speaks of quality.

Maker’s Mark Fashionable Manhattan

Chosen as the grand champion at the 2006 Kentucky Bourbon Festival Cocktail Challenge

Place 3 dashes of Angosturo Bitters in a cocktail glass along with a wedge each of lemon, lime and orange

Thoroughly mascerate the fruit in the bitters until fruit oils and bitters completely cover the inside of the glass. Empty the glass and set it aside

Add 3 parts Maker's Mark and 1 part Sweet Vermouth to a Boston shaker filled with ice

Shake vigorously for 45 seconds to a minute.Strain into the cocktail glass.

Break one Marischino cherry into the glass and scrape the inside of the glass with a bar spoon to release the fruit oils and bitters.

Garnish with a half slice of orange


THE TASTING PANEL, 6345 Balboa Blvd, Ste. 111, Encino, CA 91316
Content ©2016 THE TASTING PANEL magazine. All rights reserved