The distillery has been around since 1805, but was purchased by Mr. Samuels, founder of Maker's Mark, in the early 1950's. This distillery will receive 70,000 visitors this year, and not just because they're fans of the product- this is one of the most beautiful distilleries I've ever seen. With its little bridges, common color theme, trees, and lawns it's more like a college campus. In fact when I was there in September the tours going through almost looked like summer tours for prospective students.
Maker's is different than other bourbons as it is 70% corn (all non-GMO) plus malted barley and "soft red winter wheat" instead of the rye in most other brands. Also pretty unique is that at this distillery they make only one bourbon- only one product at all.
Also at the distillery, they use an "anaerobic processor" to capture methane biogass from their waste, which allows them to reduce their natural gas use by 15-30 percent. They also sell off their spent grains for animal feed, but I'm not sure at what point that happens.
One thing I learned about Kentucky bourbon is that the products produced here are tied to the distiller who produced them (or popularized them), rather than the company. When people talk about a bourbon, they're talking about a distiller, and not usually the current one. When you talk about Jim Beam and the Small Batch Bourbon collection, people think about Booker Noe, who recently died, not so much Fred Noe who is the current voice of the company. When Fred Noe talks about the line, he talks about his father, not himself.
That was also the case at Maker's Mark- Master Distiller Kevin Smith said that his job is to keep Maker's Mark the same as Bill Samuels Sr. created it, and if they created a new product then it wouldn't be a brand extension, it would probably be something new. When they do special editions of Maker's with a different color of wax on the bottle, it's still the same whisky inside.
Maker's rotates their barrels in the warehouse, and is the only bourbon distillery to still rotate all of the inventory. The barrels are first put at the top of the warehouse for three years, then spend another three at the bottom.
Beyond its flavor, Maker's is known for its branding- the iconic bottle with the red dripping wax unique to each bottle. The bottle design, wax seal, and the "maker's mark" itself were created by Mrs. Samuels, Bill Samuels' wife. The dripping wax is actually trademarked, which is why you don't see other brands doing it.
Those are all of my fun facts for now. More pictures from my Maker's Mark distillery visit are here.