Maker's Mark Tour

On a very hot and humid afternoon we drove from Bardstown to Loretto to take the Maker's Mark tour. I don't know if the route we took is the only way into the facility, we followed our GPS and we ended up down backroads that are only wide enough for one vehicle and we encountered more than one farm vehicle we had to maneuver around. Getting there was an adventure all in itself! 

Once we arrived we checked in at the visitors center and waited for the tour to begin. If you plan on making the Maker's Mark tour part of your Kentucky Bourbon Trail I highly recommend bringing a camera and some comfortable walking shoes. The grounds are stunning and there is a lot to see! We started the tour in the Maker's Mark Distillery.

At each point our tour guide educated us on the history of Maker's Mark and the family who started it all. The SIV with a star you see on the top of these very shiny brass stills was created by Margie Samuels, whose idea it was to seal the bottles with red wax (she liked the look of a wax seal on bottles of spirits). The 'S' stands for Samuels, IV is to represent that her husband was a fourth generation distiller and the star is for Star Hill Farms, the name of their old family farm.

This was a first for us! They have giant vats of mash (the beginnings of bourbon) and they invited us to put our hands in it! AMH jumped at the opportunity and me, well I am more comfortable taking photos. They assured us that from here the liquid goes through many different steps to ensure it is not contaminated. 

After the still houses, we walked a little ways to a very small outbuilding where all the labels are hand printed! Margie Samuels original creation is still being printed and is what you see on your bottle of Maker's Mark. When they first started selling, Margie hand wrote every.single.label. Incredible!

I was excited to see the bottling production line and to watch them hand dip the bottles in wax! Each bottle is placed on a conveyor belt and moved to the filling, sealing, labeling and finally dipping stations. Before each bottle is filled with Maker's Mark bourbon, it is cleaned with a shot of bourbon!

The hand printed labels get a coating of glue before being placed on the bottle...

then it's down the conveyor belt to be hand dipped! These ladies can each do 30+ bottles per minute and each has a distinctive spin. When they see them for sale in store they can tell which one was theirs!

After dipping, the bottles travel through the cooling house made to look like all the buildings on the property. They are them boxed up and shipped to distributors all over the world!

Across from the dipping station is a gallery wall of previous Maker's Mark billboard ads. While each of them was great, including the Christmas one with a bottle covered in twinkle lights, my favorite is the Fenway Park scoreboard!

There are decorated barrels on the property to celebrate different varieties of Maker's Mark, this one is for the Maker's 46. To create the distinct, smooth flavor of Maker's 46 they take fully matured Maker's Mark, aged 5-6 years in charred oak barrels, and insert french oak staves (long planks of wood) and seal them up again for a few months. This is done over the winter as the cool air slows the maturation process. 

After seeing the bourbon being made, bottled, sealed and even looking around the many outbuildings (I can't tell you how much I adore the Maker's bottle cutout in the shutters that are on every building!) it was time to move to the most important part of the tour, the tasting!

A preview of things to come!

Our group was brought to the tasting room to try Maker's White, Fully Matured, Maker's 46 and Cask Strength. Our tour guide lead us through tasting each one and discussed what notes (flavors) we were tasting. She also taught us a great trick for smelling bourbon, hold the glass up to your mouth and breathe in. It's not about just smelling with your nose, it's letting the entire aroma fill your senses. And it has a great warm feeling to it! This will be perfect on cold winter days. 

The tasting room was conveniently located beside the gift shop that had everything from different varieties of Maker's, trinkets and Christmas ornaments, barware, barrels (that once housed bourbon) and even Vineyard Vines ties!

The ties are a great gift idea for the man in your life who wants to combine his love of bourbon with his love of dressing up!

We had a great day at Maker's Mark and it's not over yet! We attended a dinner and meet and greet event which I will share in tomorrows post.