Browsing Tag

Maker’s Mark

Rocks Stars


May 1, 2013

David Pickerell. The Accidental Distiller?
By David Ransom

David Pickerill headshot with cowboy hat and Hillrock in hand

“Never even thought about it.” That’s the answer you might get from David Pickerell, if you ask if he always dreamed of making whiskey. Interesting to hear, no doubt, especially from the mouth of one of the industry’s greatest icons and most prolific distillers, who, probably more than anyone alive, has helped to shape the face of modern American whiskey, particularly craft distilled whiskey, and make it what it is today.

Pickerell is probably most recognized for having been the Master Distiller at Makers Mark for 14 years, a job he backed into after Makers Mark owner Bill Samuels saw his promise and his meticulous attention to detail, and asked if he’d take the job. Of course, that appointment didn’t come out of the blue, Pickerell spent years setting himself up for it, he just may not have realized that distilling whiskey would be the outcome of his plan.

Born in Fairborn, Ohio to a middle class family that “didn’t have all that much,” Pickerell showed a talent for analytical thinking at an early age. “From the age of five, my obsession was anything chemistry,” he says. By high school, he was at the top of his class in math and chemistry (two cornerstones of distilling), and also in football, making the All-State team. This led to a scholarship to attend West Point Military Academy, at which he earned a BS in Chemistry upon graduating in 1978. Post-graduation, he spent another 5 years in the Army as a cavalry officer, before being asked by his alma mater if he’d like to teach. Accepting, Pickerell attended the University of Louisville (while there, possibly drinking some bourbon from nearby Bardstown while studying, thereby seeding his interest in the chemical process of distillation?) before returning to West Point as a professor. Eventually, Pickerell realized that a career in the military was not for him, and thankful for all the Army had given him, he left the service to make his own way in the private sector.

One of his mentors at Louisville had been Dr Charlie Plank, a professor in the chemistry department who taught thermodynamics, the branch of physical science that deals with the relations between heat and other forms of energy (thermodynamics play a key role in the distillation process). Upon leaving West Point, Pickerell touched base with Plank and through inquiries based on his advice, started working on consulting projects around the world building stills in distilleries for large companies like Continue Reading…



June 25, 2010

Go Ahead and Play the Field at CKTL JAM

Put 9 featured brands on the bar, add 9 bartenders, mix them all together and what you get is a whole lot of great drinks making their debut, and some innovative ideas about bartending.

That’s the method behind the madness of the semi-annual experimental cocktail laboratory fondly known as CKTL JAM, which is scheduled for Monday, June 28, from 6:00-10:00 PM. Hosted at Astor Center ( and co-founded by PipeLine Brands ( this bi-annual showcase of the best artisanal brands and bartenders in play puts new and favorite brands into the hands of the tri-state area’s most creative mixologists, giving them a chance to explore new flavors and products that are just hitting the market. Guests on the other side of the bar have the distinct pleasure of rubbing elbows with the bartending elite and tasting new to market products while being among the first cocktail connoisseurs in the city to taste these on-the-fly cocktails and weigh in with their opinions.

The CKTL JAM-as-incubator works thanks to the objective (and often critical) audience of bartenders and cocktail aficionados in attendance who are happy guinea pigs/tasters of the drinks. As groups of brands are showcased hourly by a new 3 man shift behind the bar, attendees are able to see the mixology process in action as new drink creations are formed before their very eyes.

Drink creation isn’t the only goal of the evening. A number of interesting (and new) brands, including the newly launched Employees Only line of cordials, DonQ, Macchu Pisco, Maker’s Mark, Yamazaki, and more will be available for sampling straight and in signature cocktails at individual tasting tables. The evening’s recipes will be compiled and made accessible to all attendees.

This pre-summer and pre-Tales reunion bash was developed by PipeLine to benefit the U.S. Bartenders Guild New York Chapter (USBG-NY), offering bartenders a chance to forge a bond Continue Reading…



June 6, 2010

Brand Building Via A Category Portfolio
By John Henry

Photo by Steph Goralnick, Courtesy of PDT

The elusive “brand building process.” What does it take to succeed? Cash? Russian oil money? Scandinavian potatoes? Clawing solo up the greased mountain to distinguish one brand’s diamond dust filtration or crystal skull from the rest? How did the 2oth Century American Master Sidney Frank (rest his soul and his dozen Dunkin’ Donuts a day habit) do it with long shot Jaegermeister, and then do it again with the lightning in a bottle Grey Goose in a mere seven years…then finally rest a year or so after sharing all that wealth? (Theory: Perhaps it had something to do with years of suffering and excommunication from his in-laws, ruling liquor scions, The Schenley Family).

To paraphrase Lennon and McCartney: What does it take to do it on the street?

I had the fortune of working on Maker’s Mark from the late nineties to the mid ‘00’s.
Now that was a brand who truly believed that if the waters of the whole Bourbon category tide would rise so too would Maker’s. Plus it was a brand built on the pillar of active listening. It charted its own steady course of “blue flame growth”, plus throughout ownership changes it kept a stellar team which firmly buoyed it on the dock and stayed the course. Still does. Nothing mythical here fellow ferrymen. Maker’s will hit a million cases this year. And are even finally introducing a limited release expression, the elegant and wry Maker’s 46.

We worked hard to teach Bourbon 101 seminars and preach the faith of the whole category from Day 1 back in our day. Never talked any brands down. Even trusted Old Granddad and the Wild Turkey. Today Continue Reading…



April 12, 2010

Innovative bourbon drink recipes will be put to the test at Eleven Madison Park

To celebrate the 2nd Annual Kentucky Derby Celebration, Eleven Madison Park and Maker’s Mark Bourbon challenged bourbon lovers to create an original, Derby-inspired cocktail.

Looks like the winning drink is already out of the starting gate as recipe submissions for the Eleven Madison Park Kentucky Derby Cocktail Challenge were due 4/2. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the action.

The top contestants will be invited to prepare their cocktail for a panel of judges at the restaurant on April 20th and the winning cocktail will be featured at the Derby Party on May 1st.

Stay tuned to find out who gets to have their drink served at the Kentucky Derby Celebration hosted by Esquire magazine The afternoon’s highlights include live Derby coverage, Chef Daniel Humm’s take on Kentucky-themed cuisine, a cigar lounge by Nat Sherman, live Kentucky bluegrass music, and much more.