Maker’s Mark was started in 1954 when Bill Samuels Sr. bought the “Burks” distillery in Loretto. According to the book “But Always Fine Bourbon,” Pappy Van Winkle gave Bill some yeast to get started, and also sent his master distiller there to help get the place up to speed. Like Stitzel-Weller, Maker’s Mark used a wheat recipe for their bourbon, likely the same one. There have been precious few variations on the standard expression throughout the years, with a black and a gold version going to export on a limited basis. The brand has changed hands a few times since 1981, ultimately ending up in Beam’s portfolio in 2011.
Most Maker’s bottles seem to have date codes embossed on the bottom, but some do not. Around 1998 the wording on the label directly beneath “Whisky” changed from saying “Old style sour mash” to “Handmade.” The special edition bottles that are “personally selected for” a person’s name can be looked up by year by contacting Maker’s Mark and giving them the name.
Gold wax, gold label, gold box. Maker’s offered this domestically from around 1983 until 1993, then they made it an export only product to the Far East thereafter. It, like Maker’s Select, was discontinued around the year 2000.
Photos courtesy of Rudy Haak
Maker’s Mark Select 95 proof, circa 1992 with black wax, label, and box. This was an export-only offering sent to the Far East and Europe. Note it was the only time in Maker’s history that they emblazoned both the box and bottle with “BOURBON” in all caps. They wanted to be sure the foreign buyers knew exactly what was in the bottle. The Select was discontinued around the year 2000.