September 16, 2021
A Rich Heritage Grounded in the Yatte Minahare Spirit - Featuring Jane Bowie at Beam Suntory
Through our vision of Growing for Good, Suntory embraces the diverse values and ideas of our employees to bring forth harmony and creativity in the workplace. Beam Suntory embodies this mission to inspire human connections through the principle of Yatte Minahare - the spirit of bold ambition.
At Maker's Mark, Jane Bowie shows her Yatte Minahare spirit every day. As Master of Maturation and Director of Innovation, Jane has dedicated the past 14 years of her career to creating the highest quality bourbon and brings her expertise and passion to multiple areas of the business.
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, and as part of our Yatte Minahare story series, Jane shared more about her desire to educate consumers on the rich history and inspiring story of Maker's Mark and its beautifully crafted bourbons, as well as her focus on driving . innovation for the brand.
Q: Why is it important to innovate when Maker's Mark already has such a rich heritage?
We have a rich heritage because our founders were the original innovators for this industry. They were pioneers. They inherited a storied brand and they said, "we don't believe in this, this isn't good enough," and they threw it out and they started completely from scratch. Maker's Mark's foundation was about doing something different and having a right to do it different. I think, as the Director of Innovation, part of my job is to capture the spirit of [our founders] Bill and Margie every day, as we think about the future and to keep reinforcing everything they laid the foundation for here.
Q: What would you say is your best Yatte Minahare story - a time where you acted boldly and tackled a challenge or turned a dream into a reality?
We have many Yatte Minahare moments down here, and I love what Yatte Minahare represents. I've gotten to be a part of the Yatte Minahare Award (an employee awards ceremony) in Japan twice, actually. I think one major Yatte Minahare moment was the creation of Maker's Mark Private Select. We were the last heritage distillery in Kentucky to create a single barrel program, and when you go last, there's a chance of it being stale and doing it like everyone else. I think we leapfrogged the industry and we came up with something that truly was unique and had a new point of view, and we went for it. It was hard and it was different, and there was a chance it could have not worked or been gimmicky. I think another big Yatte Minahare moment was putting dynamite in our hillside, near our lake, and building the industry's first limestone bourbon cellar. That was a pretty special moment here at the distillery.
Q: September is National Bourbon Heritage month in the United States, which celebrates the history and art of distilling bourbon and whiskey. In honor of this, can you tell us more about the quality and craftsmanship that goes into every beverage at Maker's Mark and, specifically, why it's so important to cultivate high quality water when it's stilling premium spirits?
Bourbon is an agricultural product, right? We're using water, yeast, wood, and grains, and so from a quality perspective, those ingredients better be as outstanding as possible, so taking care of the environment and starting with a great water source, along with quality grains and oak trees are the foundation for making great bourbon. For us at Maker's Mark, we've been doing this one thing for 67 years; 274 employees will show up to the site every single day, working towards Bill and Margie's taste vision from 1954, and so for us, the motto really is, "don't screw it up."
Q: For you personally, what drives you toward continued progress in your career?
I think for me, innovation is a natural fit. I've been with Maker's Mark for 14 and a half years. It's the only place I've ever worked, so I got bit by the bug early and I think the culture and the people are amazing, and for me, it's curiosity. I'm a natural fit in innovation: I'm curious, I want to learn more, I want to understand more, and so that really has driven my career to some interesting and different places.