Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kentucky: Maker's Mark Bourbon: Best Field Trip Ever

I have always loved the taste of bourbon.  My grandmother's "rum balls" were actually made with bourbon.  And when a cookie, cake or pie calls for liquor, I always reach for the bourbon.  

I don't really drink anymore, but at one time I did and it was then that I mentioned to my friend, Beth, that I liked bourbon and ginger ale.  Bourbon fans aren't that common, so she thought I might like to become a "Maker's Mark Ambassador."  It's a fun program where you proclaim your loyalty and vow to speak well of the brand and support its endeavors whenever possible (ha!).  I loved the idea and the fact that my name would be on a barrel in the vast warehouse and that someday I would be given the opportunity to buy a bottle from that barrel after it had ages properly.  The program also sends little gifts and logoed materials to my house every once in a while. It is my kind of "enthusiasm" and I think its fun.  I joined about 7 years ago.

So...it was wonderful luck that Dan (who was working in Cincinnati for the week) and I were able to drive a short distance and spend the weekend with our friends, Beth and Richard in Louisville, Kentucky.  Yes, Kentucky.  Now you see where the bourbon element comes in.  Beth proposed that, as Ambassadors, it was really important that we visit the Makers Mark distillery. It was an hour and a half drive from Louisville, but it was worth it. 
We had so much fun!  The glasses below (I was trying to photograph the subtle change in color between the types of bourbon available) were from the tasting that is offered on the tour.
The tour starts at the very beginning, when the owners started dipping bottles of their small batch bourbon in their kitchen.

And ends with the very modern bottling set up that makes each bottle of Maker's Mark pure and true.
On the tour, thirty of us heard all about the process of making bourbon, saw the foaming vats of liquid in different stages of fermentation and admired the gleaming kettles that brought it up to temperature.  (Clearly I know nothing about making bourbon, so don't rely to heavily on my description.)
Below you can see the barrels aging in orderly fashion.  Doesn't it look beautiful with the light streaming it? My name is engraved on one of those plaques  on a barrel somewhere in the building.
The best part of the day was this tray of bourbon chocolates for us to sample on our way out. Hallelujah. A creamy bourbon center is dipped in chocolate and topped with a fresh roasted pecan.
I bought a box and made it last as long as possible. Yum yum yum.
Inside their beautiful gift shop (see in the first photo above), I also stood in line to dip the bottle of bourbon I purchased in their famous red hot wax to seal it. Silly, but fun and I'm glad I did it.  If you are ever within reach of the Maker's Mark Distillery and share my love of bourbon, be sure to visit this really beautifully designed experience. You may even find yourself signing up to be an ambassador.

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