Maker's Mark celebrates 60 years of premium bourbon
LORETTO, Ky. (WDRB) -- Maker's Mark in Marion County, Ky. is celebrating 60 years of making premium bourbon.
The historic distillery sits on one of the most scenic sites in Kentucky down in a valley by a small creek a few miles from the tiny town of Loretto.
Maker's Mark started as a small family-owned operation by T. William Samuels.
Today, it is still operated by the Samuels family although it is owned by a large Japanese beverage company.
The distillery operation is in the midst of a $71 million expansion.
"We will build a third distillery, identical to our two existing ones which will allow us to support growth," said Rob Samuels, the company's chief operating officer.
Additional warehouses are also being built to meet the growing demand for Maker's bourbon.
Even though Maker's Mark is now part of a multi-national company, Samuels credits his grandmother for much of what still goes on at the distillery today.
"Her inspiration to hand dip each and every bottle in the signature red wax," said Samuels, "that way each bottle is a little unique and different and special celebrating the hand made process."
That handmade process was celebrated on Wednesday with the dedication of a stunning and colorful glass art ceiling by world-renown glass artist Dale Chihuly.
He has done similar projects for the Ballagio Hotel in Las Vegas and at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.
"The artwork is to celebrate the uniqueness of the craft of making premium bourbon and the handmade essence of Makers," said Samuels.
The growing number of visitors will get to see this work as they pass through from the glass enclosed tasting rooms into the gift shop.
"Five years ago we hosted 45,000 visitors which sounds like a lot, but in 2013 we hosted over 120,000 guests," said Samuels.
Last year, Maker's Mark became the subject of a little controversy, forcing it to backtrack after announcing that it was reducing its alcohol content to try and meet the overwhelming demand of the bourbon brand.
That demand continues so the expansion is underway to meet that demand.
Samuels says he sees no end in sight to the growing worldwide demand for bourbon.
"Most of the growth is at the premium end," Samuels said. "In my opinion I think this is only the beginning, this will be a period of sustained growth.
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