Thursday May 10, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but an appeals court says a liquor bottle with a red dripping wax seal by any name other than Maker's Mark would be illegal.

Noting that "all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon," an opinion released Wednesday by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says that only the Kentucky-made bourbon can carry the distinctive bottle topper.

The decision comes in an appeal brought by London-based Diageo North America and Casa Cuervo of Mexico, which used a dripping red wax seal on special bottles of its Reserva tequila. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II in 2010 granted Maker's Mark's request for an injunction stopping other liquor companies from using the seal.

In a 19-page opinion affirming that decision, Judge Boyce F. Martin waxed poetic about the history of Kentucky's most famous distilled spirit. Martin, who noted at oral arguments in December that "Maker's Mark is not cheap," displayed a detailed knowledge of the history and manufacture of bourbon, writing that "corn-based mash and aging in charred new oak barrels impart a distinct mellow flavor and caramel color."

The Samuels family, which created Maker's Mark in 1958, trademarked the distinctive seal in 1985. The seal, perfected by Margie Samuels in the family's deep fryer, doesn't serve any practical purpose in keeping the bottle closed.


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The trademark held by Maker's Mark describes the seal as a "wax-like coating covering the cap of the bottle and trickling down the neck of the bottle in a freeform irregular pattern."