The Samuels decided to come up with a new recipe for their bourbon in order to make it smoother, but since the aging process for bourbon takes years, could not take the time involved actually to distill and age many batches of bourbon of varying ingredients. A unique solution to this problem was decided upon. Loaves of bread containing the exact proportion of the grain contents of each proposed recipe were baked and the one judged to be the best-tasting was adopted. The one selected contained no rye whatsoever, which was replaced by more barley and red winter wheat. Accordingly, on February 25, 1954, Bill Samuels Sr., a sixth generation Kentucky distiller, burned his family's 170-year-old bourbon recipe. The first bottle of Maker's Mark was sold in 1958 and featured the dipped red wax seal. As a side note, Maker's Mark holds a trademark on the wax seal of their bottles. What makes Maker's Mark unique is the "tendrils", or drip marks, on their seal. No other whiskey manufacturer may seal their bottles in wax with the trademarked tendrils.
The Loretto, Kentucky distillery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 1974, and designated a National Historic Landmark on December 16, 1980, listed as "Burks' Distillery". It was the first distillery in America to be so recognized where landmark buildings were actively used for distilling. Maker's Mark distillery is on the American Whiskey Trail.
Today, Maker's Mark is owned by Deerfield, Illinois-based Fortune Brands, which acquired it from distillery giant UK-based Allied Domecq in 2005 (as well as Courvoisier cognac, Sauza tequila, Canadian Club whisky, Laphroaig single-malt Scotch and Clos du Bois wines) in a joint bid with French rival Pernod Ricard.
Maker's Mark enjoys something of a cult status in certain circles. For years it was marketed with the tag line, "It tastes expensive ... and is."
Unlike most bourbons, Maker's Mark is not aged for any specific period of years; rather it is bottled and marketed when expert tasters agree that it is ready. Maker's Mark is one of the few distillers to rotate the barrels from the upper to the lower levels of the aging warehouses during the aging process to benefit from the differences in temperature during the process. Maker's Mark is bottled by taste, not age. This practice was once common in the distilling industry, but has been largely abandoned due to the high labor expense. The aging process does abide by the US bourbon law by aging for a minimum of 2 years.
Maker's Mark is sold in unusually-shaped squarish bottles, which are sealed with red wax. T. William Samuels’s wife gave the whiskey its name, drew its label, and thought up the wax dipping that gives the bottle its distinctive look. It hit the market in 1959.
In the United States, only one variety is marketed, bottled at 90 U.S. proof (45% alcohol by volume). There is a higher (101.5) proof brand, sealed with gold wax, previously marketed in the U.S. but now sent only to selected export markets. The seal on the bottle says "S IV". This mark indicates that the Samuels family (generation #4) is now in charge of the distilling process.
Maker's Mark is one of the few American made whiskeys to be spelled in the Scottish form, "whisky," as opposed to "whiskey." Technically, in United States law, the official American spelling is "whiskey" as it is in the beverage's country of origin, Ireland. However, as an homage to Scottish heritage, an exception exists to allow it be spelled without an "e".
In addition to the distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, there is also a restaurant located in the Fourth Street Live! entertainment complex in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The lounge opened in October 2004 with the grand opening of the Fourth Street Live! complex. It is decorated with backlit Maker's Mark bottles and the traditional Maker's Mark "wax" dripping from the ceiling. While the lounge focuses on Maker's Mark, it also features other bourbons from each of Kentucky's distilleries. The menu was designed by Chef Al Paris of the famous Zanzibar Blue restaurant in Philadelphia. In May, 2008, a Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge opened in Kansas City, Missouri's downtown Power & Light District.