Bourbon, Horses and CATS – Maker’s Mark Celebrates 5 Years of Wildcat National Championships

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Kentucky’s limestone water is famous for two things – building strong bones in Kentucky thoroughbred horses and adding great flavor to Kentucky bourbon. Add in hydration for Kentucky basketball players and you have the perfect Trifecta Box.

Five years ago Maker’s Mark Distillery, Keeneland Race Track and the University of Kentucky established a partnership to raise funds for CATS – The Center for Academic Tutorial Services. The partnership that has helped CATS ensure University of Kentucky student-athletes have the resources necessary for success in the classroom continues to make an impact.

The goal of UK Athletics’ partnership with Maker’s Mark and Keeneland is to raise $2 million for the CATS through the companies’ own contributions and from a portion of the proceeds of sales of special commemorative bottles of the distillery’s handmade bourbon.

The fifth and final commemorative Maker’s Mark® bourbon bottle in the series features the 2011-12 men’s basketball national championship team led by John Calipari, which brought the title home to the Bluegrass for the first time in 14 seasons. Bottles will go on sale at retail outlets in Kentucky on April 5, 2019.

“Education is at the heart of everything we do as an athletics department,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “In order to continue and build on the work CATS does to serve student-athletes and position them for academic success, we must innovate. This partnership helps provide the resources to allow us to do exactly that.”

“It’s hard to believe seven years have passed since our 2011-12 championship team cut down the nets in New Orleans,” Barnhart said. “That team was truly one of the best in college basketball history and their run is one that will live on forever in the hearts of the Big Blue Nation.”

The Final of Five Bottles

The first four commemorative bottles in the series honored the program’s first seven national championships, with this year’s bottle completing the set.

“This series of bottles has been among the most successful we’ve ever created to benefit such a worthy cause as CATS,” said Rob Samuels, Global General Manager and Chief Distillery Officer for Maker’s Mark. “One of our core values instilled by my grandparents is to give back to the community in ways that truly make an impact, and there’s no question that this partnership has done just that.”

Another element to the fundraising effort is a challenge for other companies to raise a matching $2 million. Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason announced in spring of 2015 that Keeneland would be the first take up the cause.

A bottle signing for this year’s commemorative Maker’s Mark® bourbon bottle will take place at Keeneland Race Course’s Keene Barn on the morning of Friday, April 12. Anyone wanting to attend must first get a ticket online at Keenelands website here.  The free tickets will become available online at 8:30 a.m. Monday, April 8. Fans must purchase bottles in advance for signature, no bottles will be available that day.

The 2019 Maker’s Mark limited edition Kentucky Wildcat bottle goes on sale at retail outlets on Friday, April 5, 2019. This year’s bottle celebrates the 2012 NCAA National Champion team.

View all Kentucky Distilleries.

2019 Maker’s Mark Bourbon Commemorative Cats Bottle

Maker's Mark Distillery - 2019 Maker's Mark Bourbon Kentucky Wildcat Bottle

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