The distillery business is like the Wild West right now. The overall number of distilleries in the U.S. has grown astronomically over the last 10 years. In 2012 there were less than 500 licensed distilleries. Today, that number exceeds 2,300. That’s a 360% growth rate in just a decade. Consumers can’t get enough of their favorite magic elixir these days.
It’s not unusual to hear about two to three startup distilleries each month. They range in investment size from less than $10 million to some more than $200 million. Add on top of that the heritage distilleries, those that have been around since Prohibition, with their own expansion plans and the industry is smoking hot right now. With all those startup announcements and expansion plans it takes talent to run all those operations.
The Great Resignation Phenomena Hits Distilleries
The distillery business has not been immune to the great resignation phenomena. As the overall number of distilleries grows it means the pool for trained talent is becoming more and more competitive and we are starting to see more and more senior people making the move to the startup world. Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett left Ole No. 7 to start Company Distilling. Old Forester’s Master Taster Jackie Zykan recently left the fold for startup Hidden Barn Whiskey. Master Distiller Jacob Call left Green River Distilling Co. for a new venture. Now we can add two more names to the distillery great resignation list.
Denny Potter and Jane Bowie Leaving Maker’s Mark Distillery for a New Distilling Venture
In a statement released by Maker’s Mark Managing Director Rob Samuels announced that two of the brands senior people would be leaving Maker’s Mark Distillery effective September 2, 2022.
“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 whiskey 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.
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.” — Rob Samuels, Managing Director, Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc.
Bowie has been at Maker’s Mark since 2007 starting out as a Global Brand Ambassador until her departure as Head of Blending and Innovation. Potter has served two stints at Maker’s Mark. Potter worked at Maker’s from 2003 until 2007 when he left his role as Assistant Master Distiller. From there he served a couple years as General Manager of Cruzan Rum Distillery before joining Heaven Hill Distillery between 2013 and 2017 as VP Operations and Master Distiller. He rejoined the ranks of Maker’s as General Manager and Master Distiller in 2018. Potter’s and Bowie’s last day at Maker’s Mark will be September 2, 2022.
Where Are Denny Potter and Jane Bowie Going?
Mum is the word. For now, the two are focused on saying their goodbyes to their many friends at Maker’s. We’ll let you know where there are headed as soon as they are ready to share the news.
UPDATE Sept. 17, 2022: Expect a new distillery announcement soon. Though they could not be specific at the time during an interview at the 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Festival Potter and Bowie shared they are working on a new distillery startup project. Details to follow.
– Introducing ‘Potter Jane Distilling Company’ – A $50 Million Startup by Spirits Industry Veterans Denny Potter and Jane Bowie [Renderings] – September 2023
– Former Maker’s Mark Head of Blending Jane Bowie and Master Distiller Denny Potter Announce ‘J & D Distilling’ – October 2022