Travel + Leisure (USA)
One of the most important ingredients in Kentucky bourbon isn’t the whiskey aging inside the barrel, but rather the material of the barrel itself: American white oak. That’s why eighthgeneration distiller and Maker’s Mark scion Rob Samuels is determined to preserve the trees native to North America at the label’s Star Hill Farm in Loretto, Kentucky.
More than 300 white oak varieties are being planted in what will one day be the largest repository of the species anywhere. Scientists from the University of Kentucky are working with Maker’s Mark to study the new plantings, as well as MM1, Star Hill Farm’s oldest tree, estimated to be between 300 and
500 years old. Their research aims to identify current and future threats to the oaks, which add billions of dollars to rural economies each year.
Maker’s Mark has also installed a solar array, established the region’s first widespread recycling program, and converted to a regenerative farming system that will eventually make the distillery energyindependent. Samuels hopes the new initiatives will help to create a greener standard for whiskey producers throughout Kentucky and the United States. “We realize that the greatest proven farming practices—no matter how amazing for the environment—must still be profitable for farmers,” he says. “By modeling these practices on Star Hill Farm and sharing our findings, we believe our growers will want to adopt them as well.” makersmark. com.— H.M.