9.01.2011

Day trip to Maker's Mark

IMG_9059
IMG_9060
I dipped my own bottle in wax! 

IMG_9063
IMG_9066
Historic firehouse and covered bridge on Maker's Mark's grounds. 

IMG_9032
A replica of Margie Samuels' kitchen, where the family formulated recipes for sweet, sipping Bourbon. 

IMG_9036
IMG_9042
IMG_9046
A few stops on the distillery tour. (The last stop was my favorite.)

It was a perfect day for a drive. Warm, but crisp with the sun shining high. Groundhogs and chicory flowers saluted us from the roadsides and the leaves on the tallest treetops were beginning to turn orangey-red. An hour-long journey from Louisville took us through the hills, tobacco fields, horse pastures and small town intersections, deep into the limestone heart of Kentucky where the finest bourbon whiskeys are made from it's spring-fed waters.

Along the two lane highway, we caught glimpses of the distinctive bourbon warehouses through the trees. You can't mistake them: simple, white, eight story buildings hover over the landscape, almost majestic among the rolling fields and modest clapboard houses.  Each warehouse is perforated with a grid work of small rectangular windows where a portion of evaporated spirits is allowed to escape. (They call this the "angel's share.") At the base of each building rises a haze of ashen black smudges, as if great flames once sprouted from the perimeters but were snuffed out before reaching the second story windows. Although the local Baptists may claim otherwise, those black marks aren't evidence of Hell's flames risin' up to snatch the world's bourbon inventory. It is actually an ethanol-loving fungus, a natural byproduct of the bourbon whisky aging process. I spotted the fungus on fence posts, mailboxes, above-ground swimming pools. It is within this little pocket of Kentucky that 95% of the world's Bourbon is made. 

We had our minds set on visiting Maker's Mark in Loretto, one of the five legendary distilleries connected by the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We brought along our friend Katy, a visiting Chicagoan who can toss back Bourbons as well as any Southerner. Since Kentucky is breeding grounds for some real mean addictions (bourbon, horse race gambling and country ham), I choose to justify my debaucherous ways under the guise of being a gracious host.

Makers Mark's distillery is as pretty as a postcard. The distillery grounds are located on a historic farm, where the Samuels family has been distilling, aging and bottling premium, small-batch bourbons with their signature hand-dipped wax seal for generations. The converted barns and out buildings which hold the still house, lab, bottling house and warehouse are painted black with red trim and decorative shutters, channeling the quaintness and charm of gingerbread houses if they were made of booze instead of sugar. A limestone-walled creek meanders through the landscaped grounds, leading to a beautiful farm house, historic covered bridge and Quart House (an ancient drive-thru where locals in horse and buggies stopped to fill their jars of whisky). Our guided tour began at the distiller's house (visitor's center) which has been redesigned to look like the Samuels family 50's era home. From there, we were lead through each step of the bourbon making process, ending with a Bourbon tasting and tasty Bourbon pecan chocolate. After seeing the laborious process first hand, I had a new appreciation for the tradition,  craftsmanship and care invested into each bottle. We bought a bottle of Maker's in the gift shop, and I was eager for a chance to dip my own bottle in the trademark red wax. 

Maker's mark offers free distillery tours and Bourbon tastings every hour on the half hour from 10:30-3:30, Monday-Saturday. You can find out more about it on Maker's Mark's website.

Here are a few other bourbon-centric activities:
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Kentucky Bourbon Festival, September 13-18, 2011 in Bardstown, KY

1 comment:

Speak your mind.