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The "Mark" Of Quality

"In May of 2005, Maker's Mark celebrated its 47th year of putting its whisky into bottles for sale. When T. William Samuels created Maker's Mark he was already bucking a downward trend in the bourbon industry. Why would any sane entrepreneur build into an industry where there was already excess capacity and the trend was going the wrong direction?

 

Samuels' conviction was that there was a hidden, unserved market for a different kind of bourbon than was on the market in the 1950s. He saw a market for an elegant whisky. There was, in his thinking, a customer who was not buying bourbon because the bourbons on the market in the 1950s lacked refinement. Instead of the relatively heavy, harsh, minimally aged bourbons so common in the post-Prohibition and post World War II era, Samuels sought to create a more refined, clean, smooth, delicate whisky. After all, why couldn't a native American bourbon be just as elegant as some French brandy? Samuels saw no reason why there could not be such a whisky.

 

So, he experimented with a variety of formulations and distilling apparati. From the Old Fitzgerald distillery in Louisville he learned how a mash bill that replaced the traditional rye with wheat could produce a whisky that was still full on the palate, but which lacked the coarseness that a heavy dose of rye would add. Although he dabbled with an old copper pot still as part of the process, he chose to go with a traditional copper column still.

 

And so that the public would understand that this whisky was meant to be elegant, Samuels (with the advice of his wife) settled on the distinctive Maker's Mark shaped bottled dipped in the trade-mark red wax.

 

Samuels seems to have been right. Not wanting to be a flash in the pan, Maker's Mark has focused on steady, sustainable growth. Without becoming trendy, it has grown every single year of its existence. Indeed, it has now grown to the point where Maker's Mark worries that it will not have sufficient bourbon to satisfy its market."

 

- www.straightbourbon.com

 

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Taken on May 7, 2005