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Maker’s Mark Distillery: Master distiller, blender leave

Maker’s Mark Distillery, maker of premium Kentucky bourbon, announced on Tuesday that two of the people most responsible for guiding the popular brand in the last few years are leaving to make their own whiskey.

Master distiller Denny Potter and head of innovation and blending Jane Bowie are leaving as of Sept. 2, according to an announcement from Rob Samuels, managing director of the Loretto distillery, which is owned by spirits company Beam Suntory.

“For nearly seven decades, Maker’s Mark has stayed true to the vision of our founders Bill and Margie Samuels … to be innovators of the craft and to make a Bourbon whisky that people want to enjoy drinking and sharing with friends. We’ve been incredibly fortunate over the years to have key individuals join our Maker’s Mark family who have been tremendous custodians of this legacy – people like Denny Potter, General Manager & Master Distiller, and Jane Bowie, Head of Innovation & Blending,” Samuels said in the statement.

“Just like our founders, Denny and Jane also have an entrepreneurial itch and have expressed a desire to blaze their own trails in the Bourbon industry with a new venture. While Denny and Jane will depart with our utmost thanks on Sept. 2, they will always be members of the Maker’s Mark family.

“I simply can’t thank Denny and Jane enough for the tremendous impact they have had on Maker’s Mark around the world. I will be announcing their successors in due course and in the meantime, we will continue to create the highest quality bourbon and pursue an exciting future for this great brand.”

Denny Potter joined Maker’s Mark as master distiller in 2018, coming from Heaven Hill. File photo

No word yet on exactly what the new venture from Potter and Bowie will be except that they apparently plan to start their own distillery.

In a message, Bowie said, “Denny and I are headed out to make a go of it. Will have details soon but right now we’re just focused on closing out this chapter and saying goodbye to Maker’s.”

In a statement, Maker’s Mark said that “Denny and Jane have aspirations to make their own whiskey. Their plans are in the very early stages. … They have plans to start their own venture, which they recognize is risky and exhilarating all at the same time.”

Also no word on who will helm Maker’s Mark, one of the top-selling Kentucky bourbons, which has significantly expanded in its releases in recent years.

Jane Bowie, right, has been with Beam Suntory for 15 years, most recently as head of blending and innovation. Herald-Leader

The company said that “given the critical importance of these roles, Rob Samuels has pledged to take his time to ensure the very best talent succeed Denny and Jane for the operations and commitment to innovation and quality. He has not made any decisions yet on if their backfills will come from within or be external to the industry.”

Potter joined Maker’s Mark in 2018 after a stint at for Heaven Hill, where he was named master distiller in 2013 after Parker Beam became master distiller emeritus. Potter took over for Greg Davis, who left to become the director of distillation for Jim Beam’s Clermont and Boston plants.

Bowie has been with Beam Suntory for 15 years, was named master of maturation and director of innovation in November 2019 before becoming head of blending and innovation in April.

mint julep maker’s mark vats.jpg
Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto announced on Tuesday that its master distiller and head blender are leaving the bourbon brand to start their own venture. Provided

This story was originally published August 30, 2022 3:21 PM.

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Janet Patton covers restaurants, bars, food and bourbon for the Herald-Leader. She is an award-winning business reporter who also has covered agriculture, gambling, horses and hemp.
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