When it comes to whiskey, two things are certain: America and Ireland spell it with an “e,” and every other country spells it without. But like every rule, there are exceptions. In America, one notable exception is Marker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky.
Maker’s Mark chooses the Scottish way to spell whisky, even though it’s an all-American bourbon through and through. This can get confusing for some people (especially those loyal to the notion that countries with an “e” spell whiskey with an “e”), but the rationale comes down to one thing: distiller heritage.
So why we do we spell whisky without the “e” at Maker’s Mark? The Samuels decided to pay homage to their Scottish-Irish heritage.
— Maker's Mark (@MakersMark) December 15, 2012
“So why we do we (sic) spell whisky without the “e” at Maker’s Mark?” the company’s official Twitter account tweeted on December 14, 2012. “The Samuels decided to pay homage to their Scottish-Irish heritage.”
The modern history of Maker’s Mark goes back to Bill Samuels Sr., a sixth-generation distiller. Bill wanted to change the family recipe after Prohibition ended to create a smoother, easier-drinking bourbon. He came up with the Maker’s Mark recipe over six years of experimentation, according to the Maker’s Mark website, improving on the recipes of his ancestors in America and abroad. His father Leslie, who ran the family whisky business, wasn’t interested in the new, more expensive recipe, however.
It wasn’t until 1953 that Bill purchased an old distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, away from his family’s distillery, and started up on his own. To kick things off, he ceremoniously burned the only copy of his family’s 170-year-old recipe. It was his wife Marge who came up with the hand-torn labels and the now-iconic wax seal.
Bill Samuels Jr. took over the business after his father and continued the tradition. The company first sold told Hiram Walker & Sons in 1981, went through a couple more sales over the years, and is now owned by the Japanese company Beam Suntory. The family throwback to spelling whisky without an “e,” however, has remained.