On the label of Maker’s Mark bourbon you will find “Maker’s Mark is America’s only handmade bourbon whisky – never mass produced”. Looking through the COLA database, this statement goes back for at least 14 years. I visited my local store and it was on every bottle I saw in both 750ml and 1.75liter.
I have visited close to 100 distilleries located all over the world. Some have been very technologically advanced with computer screens and automation performing some of the work while others have been at the opposite end with every valve hand turned by a person. I would say every distillery I have visited could make a valid claim of being handmade. At some point in the process hands are involved. For instance barrels are all rolled by hand. You will not find any definition of handmade in the TTB’s CFRs. Maker’s Mark hand dips all of their bottles. So, I have no issue with Maker’s use of handmade on the label. They also claim never mass produced. Again, there is no legal definition for mass produced in the CFRs, so it is just a marketing statement.
What I found perplexing was their use of the word ‘only’. With the boom of new craft distilleries in the US in the last 10 years certainly there are plenty of whisky distilleries operating on a smaller scale than Maker’s Mark with more hands-on involvement. Frankly I was flabbergasted they would dare to make this statement.
When I started writing this blog post, the first thing I did was reach out Maker’s Mark to see if they would like to comment on this. I received a response back the very next day. Here is the message:
“As the category has evolved, we have made updates to the label, including removing the word ‘only.’ Sometimes inventory takes a while to clear off the shelves, so it’s entirely possible that you’ve seen or even purchased bottles recently that still have this language (as noted in your picture). However, new bottles coming out of the Maker’s Mark Distillery today no longer include the word ‘only’.”
I was expecting to post a hard take on this issue and see if it would convince them to change. Looks like they outdid me; good for them for making this change. At least Bourbon geeks in the future will be able to quickly glance at a Maker’s Mark bottle and proclaim that’s a pre or post 2018 label change bottle.
Let me know in comments if you see a bottle with a label that reflects this new change. Update – Confirmed sighting of new label as of November 2018.
10 thoughts on “Maker’s Mark answers label question”
I’ve always wondered about the ‘hand-made’ comment. Tito’s Vodka…Hand-made. What does that mean? Maker’s Mark…Hand-made? I’ve been through their tour 3 times this year, and I think its a stretch to say it is hand-made! Hand-dipped bottle top, yes. Otherwise, pretty automated in my opinion.
As I mentioned in my post, hand-made is never defined by the TTB in the rules regarding spirits and labeling. It’s mostly a marketing fluff term. Every bourbon distillery could make the same claim. As long as some point in process hands are involved, which it is, then claim is valid; just doesn’t mean much.
Hand rolled barrels, hand cut labels, hand dipped bottles. And yes I am aware that a machine is used to actually cut the labels but each sheet is hand placed in the machine and quality checked after its cut. As far as large bourbon manufacturers go Makers is certainly more hands on than others.
1.75l bottle purchased in Dallas TX on 09/14/18 still has the “old” label containing the stated ONLY. MM is my daily drinker, so as I travel in my motorhome, I’ll look for the new labels’ and pass on my findings.
It’s a solid daily drinker. Thanks for the update. If they just made the change, I’d guess it will take a few months for bottles to get out to retail level as their wholesalers move through existing stocks.
I was just at the distillery on 9/21/18 and they had loose labels for people on the tour to take as a souvenir. They still had the word “only”. May be they are from old stock.
Maybe it’s the only American whiskey that refers to it’s priduct as whisky instead of whiskey? Still a stretch.
There are several American producers that forgo the ‘e’. George Dickel TN Whisky. Balcones Single Malt Whisky.
I’d also question the statement that each batch is taken from 19 barrels. Was that changed as well?
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