I have loved bourbon since I had my first taste of it in a mint julep one of my first weeks working at Southern Living. The Southern classic reminded me of the mojitos I was used to drinking in Miami, except better. I did not realize the better was the bourbon until I had the stuff straight up at the hotel bar at the St. Regis Atlanta. It was a Woodford Reserve Personal Selection made especially for the luxury hotel. Life changing. Still, it wasn’t until I toured the Maker’s Mark distillery yesterday that I was really able to appreciate the craftsmanship of Kentucky bourbon.
The tour guide shared that 95% of the world’s bourbon comes from the Bluegrass State and he added, maybe jokingly, that there are more barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky than there are people. After driving through part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and seeing some of the massive storage houses, I don’t doubt it.
The Maker’s Mark operation runs a little off the beaten path in Loretto, KY — a trip that is well worth the trek, not only for seeing one of the best bourbons on the market go from grain to spirit, but also for scenic views. The drive is hilly and beautiful, even in winter, and the payoff is even better when you get to the green backdrop of the Maker’s campus. On the tour you’ll dip your finger into fermenting grain, learn some Samuels’ family trivia, and see the “handmade” claim on the label come to life as a row of women systematically hand-dip the bottles into the brand’s signature red wax. You’ll learn that the wax, along with the rest of the design elements of Maker’s were created by the lady of the house, Marjorie “Margie” Samuels. Behind every great man…
Not one to leave you thirsty, the tour concludes with a tasting of the classic Maker’s Mark, it’s slightly smoother 46 variety, and it’s newest product, Maker’s White (available only at the distillery for now), which some might refer to as moonshine, but distillers prefer the term “white dog.” It’s all topped off with a pecan-dotted bourbon ball, and for your own sake a walk through the picturesque grounds to ward off any buzz.