Old Grist Mill and Distillery

Historical Marker #1509 commemorates the history of the grist mill and distillery that would later be known as Makers Mark in Loretto, Kentucky.

In 1803, Charles Burks, his wife Sarah, and their family settled on the west bank of Hardin Creek in Washington County. It would be four generations and 116 years before George R. Burks, the great-grandson of Charles, permitted title to this property to belong to anyone other than a member of the Burks family.

On August 5, 1805, Charles Burks petitioned the Washington County Court for permission to dam Hardin Creek so that he could build and operate a water grist mill. Permission was granted and, by the year's end, both were operational. The mill operated continuously as a "water powered grist mill" until 1906, when boiler power took over. Milling has continued ever since, having been interrupted only by prohibition. There is no definitive evidence of when the Burks family began making whiskey on their Hardin Creek farm; it is believed, however, that distilling operations began a short time after the grist mill became operational in 1805.

On March 2, 1896, William Marcus Burks and his sons, George R. and Roy, incorporated the distilling operation into M. H. Chamberlain & Co. In 1899, William Marcus sold the property on which the distillery sits to George R. Burks. As part of this transaction he was also deeded most of the Burks Mill Farm. In 1905, George sold one-third of his interest in the distillery to both J. E. Bickett and J. H. Kearns. That same day, Burks Spring Distilling Co. was formed. However, when prohibition started, George Burks and J. H. Kearns sold their interest in the distillery farm to J. E. Bickett. In 1935, Frank Bickett, son of J. E., refurbished and restructured the distillery. He began producing whiskey in 1937.

In the early 1940s, the plant was purchased by Arthur Cummins and, subsequently, by Ed Kaiser of Glenmore Distilleries, Inc. Finally in the spring of 1951, Dave Karp shut the plant down. On October 1, 1953, T. William Samuels purchased the old distillery and property. Distilling began in February of 1954 and the first bottle of Maker's Mark was bottled in 1958. It featured the brand's distinctive dipped red wax seal, which continues to this day.