Hall puts mark on bourbon bottle

By Wesley Yonts

Kentucky is known for its basketball, and a company is continuing to honor that tradition by combining it with another Kentucky legend — bourbon.

Maker’s Mark announced Monday the newest edition in its “UK’s Most Beloved” bottle series. The bottles go on sale April 4 and will feature former UK men’s basketball coach Joe B. Hall.

“I guess you could kind of say my life’s complete,” said Hall, who led the Wildcats to their fifth NCAA championship in 1978. “To be on a Maker’s Mark bottle gives me class and dignity.”

Hall was tasked with following the legendary Adolph Rupp, and after winning the national championship in 1978, he was named National Coach of the Year. The limited edition bottle celebrates the 30-year anniversary of that victory.

Hall also coached the Cats to the Final Four three times during his 13-year career and won eight Southeastern Conference regular-season championships.

Sales from the new bottles, which will cost about $45 each, will benefit the Markey Cancer Center, a personal partnership for Hall, whose wife was treated for lung cancer at the Markey Center and died in May 2007.

Maker’s Mark commemorative bottles started in the early 1970s, when former Gov. John Y. Brown asked Bill Samuels, president of Maker’s Mark, to design blue wax seals for his derby invitations, Samuels said.

Samuels agreed — the distillery already had all the components to make the wax, so it wouldn’t be difficult, he said.

The leftover wax sat in storage at the Maker’s Mark distillery until 1993, when UK won the SEC Tournament. Samuels was at the distillery that night bottling an order and decided to dip the bottles in the leftover blue wax instead of the traditional red.

“It was just a joke,” Samuels said, but the bottles proved extremely popular.

After that Samuels decided to donate all the money made from these commemorative bottles and began producing limited edition bottles every year and donating all the proceeds to charity.

In addition to the money raised by Maker’s Mark from the UK series, private donors and money from the proposed cigarette tax will match the profits. The combined donations are estimated to total $3 million over the three years of the series, Samuels said.

“Every dollar given helps Markey achieve their goal of becoming a premier cancer institute,” said Sally Humphrey, chairman of the Markey Cancer Foundation. “When you give to Markey it’s a gift of hope.”