Maker's Mark Distillery (#1 of 19) was a great way to start off my bourbon tour. This iconic brand, with its red wax seal, beautiful campus, informative tour guides, and very approachable flavor profile make it easy to get jazzed about a week's worth of tasting bourbon and sour mash whiskey.

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BUT BEFORE WE GET TO MAKER'S MARK

BONUS CONTENT: In the following video, I set up this tour by giving you some of the things I had to consider. As I was planning, I could find no real road map for where to go or how to handle certain aspects of the trip. So I would pose some questions and then either answer them as I found out via my video recaps or in the takeaways (bullet points). These videos can be skipped, but do provide more of an immediate reaction to the experiences and some of my mental processes encountered before and after tours. This first video goes into the question of drinking and driving and doing a responsible tour (especially as a solo traveler, like me).

  • Clarification: I mentioned having a 12 o'clock reservation, but actually I was thinking of another day, it was actually 1 PM.
  • This link is not 100% scientific, but it will give you an idea of how your blood alcohol level is affecfted: https://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/blood-alcohol-bac-calculator Choose whisky (1.5) or airline mini-bottle. They should be similar to what you'll receive at any Kentucky distillery.
  • 1.75 oz (50 ml) at 40 proof is comparable to a 12 oz beer with 5% alcohol.
  • The point about the chips was to make sure I put something in my belly...told you, unscripted folks!
  • This is my first ever video blog, so I learned a lot watching these videos back. My apologies for any rough audio or in this case excessive sunshine!

AND NOW THE FIRST DISTILLERY: MAKER'S MARK

kentucky makers mark outside

ABOUT THE MAKER'S MARK DISTILLERY TOUR

  • Location: Loretto, KY
  • Impression: Pretty campus and informative, immersive experience.
  • Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
  • Cost: I paid $12 for the tour by walking in 20 minutes ahead of time. You can reserve online as well. 
  • Samples: 5 different bourbons. Tried clear spirit, Makers Mark Whiskey, Makers 46, Cask Strength and a Private Select.
  • Perks: A nice chocolate at the end and a Maker's Mark label (sans the bottle). And for the cost of a bottle of bourbon, you can hand dip your own. You can also pick up a label from the print shop.
  • My Instagram Tour Photos from Maker's Mark

Takeaways

  • Offered bourbon flavored coffee on my morning visit, nice start!
  • Tour filled up quickly. I arrived at 9 AM on a Saturday morning and was the first person there. Tour left promptly at 9:30 AM and filled up quickly.
  • Best part (next to the sampling): Watching the product go from empty box and bottle to being filled and finally getting dipped in red sealing wax, Marker's Mark's unique feature.
  • The tasting was very informative. You even find out how to use the different tastebuds on your tongue and where they are located. 
  • Although I thought it unsanitary at first, we got to dip our fingers in the sour mash during fermentation. Realize though, they will vaporize this product and no germs could survive that! 
  • Charles gave a great 1 1/4 hour tour. More than a few giggles occurred when he described a "bunghole." Must have had some Beavis and Butthead fans in tow. I almost pulled my shirt over my head! Ha!
  • This was the first of many places where the tour guide suggested consistency and flavor are the reasons many distillers don't put age statements on their bottles including Maker's Mark. 
  • Maker's Mark only uses one mashbill (formula) for all of their bourbons. I'll describe what a mashbill is later and it's importance. It's suggested that 60 to 80% of the differences in whiskey comes from what happens in the barrel.
  • The Maker's Mark Private Select version we tried had a mocha flavor. Yours may and most likely will vary.
  • Look for the cool looking shutters with bottle cut outs. 
  • Pet Peeve: On the road to Maker's Mark, I saw a Jim Beam billboard saying "This is what quality tastes like." Nice (eye roll). You'll soon learn I'm not a fan of "oldest" statements or marketing braggadocio. Give us credit and let us judge for ourselves what quality is!

kentucky makers mark barrels

Side Trips

  • Kentucky Cooperage - you'll find that most of the major distillers in Kentucky get their barrels from this cooperage.  They also have a charring system, so when you hear someone say a #3 char, a #4 char or a #3 1/2 char, that is a char based on an amount of time determined by Kentucky Cooperage. It is right down the road from Maker's Mark in Lebanon, KY. They are open Monday through Friday and tours by reservation cost $10 at the time I'm posting this. Later, I will post a distillery where you can potentially see this same charring done during your standard tour. If you're in Louisville, check out Kelvin Cooperage, where they service a lot of craft distilleries. I hear you can see more of the process there.
  • Limestone Branch Distillery - also in Lebanon, KY, I just ran out of time and couldn't squeeze this one in, but really wanted to go. I heard others speaking highly of the conversational tone of the place.

With distillery number one in the books, it's time to head down the road to Danville and the Wilderness Trace Distillery.

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