Ask the Expert: Why Do Maker’s Mark Bottles Have Red Wax on Top?

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Ask the Expert: Why Do Maker’s Mark Bottles Have Red Wax on Top?

In our weekly Ask the Expert series, we tackle all your alcohol-related questions. Want your own question answered? Tweet us @PasteDrink using the hashtag #AskTheExpert

At Maker’s Mark, each bottle is said to involve the “4 W’s,” water, wheat, wood, and wax. The red wax resting on the top of every bottle of Maker’s is a time-honored tradition that dates back to 1958 and the very first bottle the distillery ever sold.

The idea came from Margie Samuels who founded the distillery with her husband. The marketing brains of the operation, she came up with the bottle design for Maker’s Mark as well as the idea to dip each bottle in wax. At the time, bourbon was seen more as moonshine than the connoisseur’s beverage it is today. The design and detail that went into Maker’s Mark’s bottle design were part of what made it stand out against its competition then, and now.

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The first bottle was dipped using wax heated up in a deep fryer on the Samuels’ stove. The formula for Maker’s Mark’s wax used today was developed by Tom Hammond in his garage. It took six months, and a lot of trial and error, for him to create the iconic wax. One important feature of it: it will only melt at 350 degrees, so there’s no risk of it melting after it initially dries on the bottle (that could make for some messy bottles if they got warm in transport or at your home).

While even the most casual whisky drinker knows that Maker’s Mark has red wax on top, most people don’t realize that each bottle was hand dipped. Dippers stand near the end of the bottling line and hand dip each and every single bottle.

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In his prime, Bill Samuels Jr., the son of Maker’s founders, said he could even tell who dipped each bottle by looking at it on the shelf.

Since each bottle is dipped by hand, it actually makes the bottling line a bit slower than some of the competition. While some distilleries can pump out 200-400 bottles per minute, Maker’s Mark’s group of hand-dippers currently do no more than 125 bottles each minute.

We recently went to Maker’s Mark in Kentucky and saw the bottling line in action. Check out the video below for a look at how it all happens.

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