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Issue 57 - American idols

Whisky Magazine Issue 57
July 2006

 

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American idols

Most single malts are named after their distilleries, which in turn are mostly place names. Most blended Scotches are named after the merchants who created them although a few, such as Cutty Sark (a ship), are more fanciful.

In the United States, a much younger nation with a much younger whiskeymaking tradition, many whiskey names are more in the modern consumer marketing tradition. Here are the stories behind a few of them.

Maker's Mark
Bill Samuels is the president and living embodiment of Maker's Mark bourbon. The Samuels family has a long history in the industry, but when Bill's father started the company in the 1950s, he no longer owned rights to the family name. His wife was a collector of vintage silver and knew that such pieces could be identified by a distinctive symbol, usually placed in an inconspicuous spot by the silversmith, which was known to collectors as the maker's mark. Bill says the red wax was her idea too.

Woodford Reserve
This beautiful, historic Kentucky distillery that Brown-Forman bought and restored a decade ago has many famous names associated with it, but Brown-Forman doesn't own the rights to any of them. The distillery happens to be located in Woodford County. End of story.

Wild Turkey
Before prohibition, most American whiskey brands were created and owned by wholesalers, not distillers. One such wholesaler was Austin, Nichols & Company, a venerable New York concern. In 1940, a company executive named Thomas McCarthy pulled some whiskey f...

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