Maker’s Mark has always been a good corporate citizen in Kentucky. They have been issuing special bottles of Maker’s Mark with the profits going to charities for decades. Maker’s Mark, like all distilleries, also recognizes the importance of on-premise sales to their business. A friendly bar owner or bartender can be responsible for selling more bottles of their Bourbon in liquor stores than print advertisements. Many people come to bars to try new whiskeys before they head to a liquor store to purchase a bottle of the same whiskey. This is why it was only common sense that when Ed Lee’s people contacted Maker’s Mark about supporting the Lee Initiative, a program that supports bars in these hard times.

The Lee Initiative was founded in 2017 in response to the #MeToo movement with a mission to train more women to work in a professional capacity in restaurants. In 2019 when the government shutdown left many workers without paychecks, Ed Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek raised some money and paid restaurants to fix meals for those out-of-work Federal employees. With the shutdowns due to Covid 19, the program has been purchasing meals to feed unemployed people in the service industry and others. They pay restaurants to fix the meals and deliver them, thus keeping people working in a safe environment. They have 19 kitchens nationwide in this program and have served over 600,000 meals thus far. 

Maker’s Mark started with an initial donation of $5,000 and helped to raise more funds through their Ambassador Program. They then decided that they would release a special bottle to raise even more funds for the Lee Initiative. That is when Jane Bowie came up with a radical idea for the program. Instead of just a special bottle, Maker’s Mark contacted 37 different industry partners (bars, restaurants and retailers) who had made private selections of Maker’s 46 to ask if they could use their stave selections for their Private Select Maker’s 46 to make a special whiskey for this fund raising project. They took these stave selections and made barrels of each whiskey from these institutions and then married them all together and aged them for another 5 weeks in the cave to create a unique whiskey. The final percentages of staves were as follows: 13% P2, 24% CU, 20% 46, 27% MO and 16% SP. The final proof was 107.7. The whiskey has an aroma of caramel and dark fruits with a hint of chocolate and spice. The taste is caramel, dried fruit and tobacco with some baking spices, oak and chocolate. The finish is long and brandy-like with fruit and oak. I really like this whiskey and I think Jane has done an excellent job by creating this concept. I hope that Maker’s Mark uses this idea in the future.

The Lee Initiative is the sole benefactor of the funds raised with the sale of these bottles. About 95% of the money raised by the Lee Initiative is used in the program. There is very little overhead because Lee and Ofcacek run the program with the help of only two other people. Because of this efficiency in management, Maker’s Mark has worked so that the bottles will only be sold through the 19 members of the Lee Initiative. To purchase one or more bottles (they have a lot since they made 37 barrels of whiskey), go to their website, and find the closest member restaurant to order the bottle. Here in Louisville that is 610 Magnolia. Each State has different liquor laws so the terms may vary, but here in Kentucky, each bottle purchase will include barbecue for two people. The bottles go on sale on December 1st.

Purchasing this whiskey will give you a great tasting whiskey and the satisfaction that the money is being used to support bars and restaurants nationwide. The price is a reasonable $70 for a 750ml bottle. 

Photos Courtesy of Maker’s Mark and The Lee Initiative