I do get excited easily when it comes to certain things. Visiting Maker’s Mark Distillery, located at 3350 Burks Spring Road in Loretto, KY, similar to instances where getting a firsthand and hands-on experience, allowed that giddiness to overtake my mind and lift up my spirits.
After seeing a concert, the guitar will be dusted off and strummed. After seeing a show, whether it’s stage or improv, those books will be thumbed through and my cat will get a free peeks of “one-prov.” After a great movie, my mind wanders and pen hits paper. After the distillery tour, I’d probably never get into the spirit industry — not anytime soon — but I have a significant appreciation for the craft and its history.
Katey and I first met Chris(topher) when we signed up to take a tour. Little did we know, he’d be guiding us through the experience that is Maker’s Mark Distillery. As we waited for the tour to begin, we enjoyed complimentary coffee on the patio of the farmhouse on the property.
It overlooks the rest of the property, which, at first thought, looked like a village of sorts you’d see in England or mainland Europe. Another thought went to something in a role-playing video game. Come to find out the Samuels — particularly co-owner Margie Samuels, wife of patriarch Bill Samuel, Sr. — wanted it designed after a Victorian village. Seeing it makes complete sense.
Margie gets a lot of credit. As much as Bill pushed the distinct Maker’s Mark bourbon, she comes across as wearing the pants. Aside the look of the distillery, much of the marketing and signature aesthetics/designs, including the bottles themselves and the label and the wax seal, are credited to Maker’s matriarch.
She was also the first woman to be inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.
There is a lot of history to talk about, and much of it can be found on the website. We learned the insignia on the logo signifies the name Samuels (the “S”), Bill (Sr.) being a fourth generation distiller (the “IV”) and the family’s Star Hill Farm (the star). The labels are still made on a 1935 Chandler & Price printing press. The reason why Maker’s whisky is spelled without the “e” — it’s the Scottish way.
As we all have learned on Saturday Night Live — “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”
Being my first Kentucky bourbon distillery, there was a lot to take in. The cellar where they store the 46 and Private Select barrels is beautiful. All these barrels are reopened and filled with French oak staves before sitting nine more weeks. There are two tasting rooms — one for the tour patrons and another for the Private Select investors. Even the people on our tour, myself included, wow-ed at our tasting room.
Chris took us through the five small samples Maker’s Mark Distilling creates: the grappa-esque white, the standard, the cask strength, the 46, and finally a private select. The bourbon is on the sweet side, which (surprisingly) doesn’t bother me.
The hour-long tours are $14, and they’re the only way you’ll be able to taste samples of the products. Katey and I were pleased with the tour and with Chris’ knowledge and dry humor.
He and I actually had a great conversation after a bathroom break. It is what it is — we all have to pee. Katey and I interacted with a few of staff members; everyone was very pleasant.
Of course, we walked away with a couple bottles. We couldn’t not. The opportunity to dip our own bottles in the wax was also too great to resist. Like the staff, we were required to wear goggles, an apron, sleeves, and gloves. The wax bubbles at almost 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
We dipped the top in, pulled it up, and then quickly spun the bottle twice in a clockwise direction. That’s how it’s done.
There isn’t one person who does this for eight hours a day. Chris said the staff is cross-trained. They work on one task for about a half hour before moving on to the next. One minute they’re dipping bottles, the next they’re using the label press.