While we were in Tennessee we were told by several people to “do” the Bourbon Trail. Not being hard liquor drinkers (well, Margaritas don’t count) we didn’t pay much attention to this attraction. Enter, Dale’s son, Joe. When he learned we were in Bardstown he said we MUST do the tour at the Marker’s Mark Distillery. The distillery was out aways so we tried the Barton Distillery but it didn’t look inviting even though it was one of the oldest in the area. So, going back and forth together, we trekked the 18 miles south of Bardstown to see what Joe found so interesting.
We learned that this property has its own spring which they use as the water in the bourbon. Whiskey Creek runs through this part of the property. We also learned that Kentucky has limestone underground that filters the water making it pure (iron free) and since water makes up a good percentage of the bourbon, this water doesn’t change the taste.
Our first stop was at the gist mill. Then on to the vats.
They have a room of 4-6 wood vats they keep for show and use. The wood for these vats are over 100 years old. The process of making the bourbon and cleaning and maintaining the vats is horrendous so they have moved on to metal vats.
The aroma’s that greeted us at the door were what you might expect in a distillery. Yeast most of all. It was also quite hot in this part of the plant.
You can visit Maker’s Mark for all the details of the process they use. http://www.makersmark.com
The grains used in Makers Mark are yeast, corn, red winter wheat grown locally, and malt barley from the Dakota’s. While traveling in Kentucky we saw a lot of corn fields and wondered why. Now we know why! For bourbon.
Mrs. Samuels contributed to the company business by: 1. Naming Maker’s Mark. When the old family recipe was changed from rye to red winter wheat, she came up with the name, giving her husband credit for the new recipe and new, smoother tasting bourbon. He had made his mark in the bourbon business. 2. She came up with this brand (photo). The S is for their name; the IV for the 4th generation of bourbon makers (even though he was 6th generation in name, only the 4th to go into the business); 3. Maker’s Mark has one feature that distinguishes it from all other brands and that is the red wax dipped over the cap. 4. The star represents Star Hill, the name of the property of the Samuels.
The bourbon is stored in new wooden kegs to soak up the oak flavors. Most barrels go for 6 years before the bourbon is bottled and sold. The distillery has many warehouses where the bourbon is stored. The buildings, as you see, have an exterior that is very dark. This is an amber color which corresponds with the color of the bourbon. However, there is a purpose for this. The dark color brings in heat from the sun needed to age the bourbon. The barrels are rotated from top to bottom so all can benefit from the heat.
We watched as the empty bottles come up the line to be filled with bourbon. Then on to capping and putting the label on. These girls are dipping the bottles off the line into the red wax that is the trademark of Maker’s Mark. Click on the photo to enlarge. After this the bottles move down the line to be boxed (by hand) and sent on their way to the market place.
Last stop was probably the most important stop for many – The Tasting Room and Gift Shop.
We were given two glasses. One for Maker’s Mark and one for a new bourbon, Maker’s 46. One question asked by a fellow tour mate was “How long does it take to acquire a taste for bourbon?” We all laughed. Either you love it or you don’t.
Life is good (without bourbon) !
God loves us totally!