Maker's Mark: A Kentucky Tradition

VJ and I were ready to stir up some trouble when we traveled south for a wedding this past weekend.  And what better way to stir up trouble than to hit the bourbon trail.

My partner in crime: VJ

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OK, we didn’t do the trail but we did make our way to Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky.  And it was everything I hoped it would be: charming, classic and good enough to eat (or drink in this case).

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We started out in a little building where the tour group gathers – nothing fancy but definitely special.  The little rooms all had the 1950s vibe, with a vintage kitchen and knick knacks – most of which were dipped in the infamous red wax.  And talking pictures.  That was humorous.  But then we were off!

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Like I said, incredibly charming.  The buildings were all inviting, the landscape was beautiful.  I especially loved the red wooden shutters with a bottle cut out.  You usually see this with hearts or something like that in this area.  That means the Samuels family has quite the since of humor.  Love it.

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We started off here – where the mashers live.  Our tour guide explained the entire process of making their blend of whiskey bourbon.  She lost me about three sentences in.  But the one thing I caught (and found the most interesting) is that the only additive used in Maker’s Mark is limestone water.  That’s it.  The rest is grain and corn and whatever else they stick in there.  Limestone water.  Which is in abundance in this area of the country and why so many whiskey makers built distilleries here.  And you thought Kentucky was just about horses.

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The mark you see stamped on every bottle was thought up by the brains in the family: Mrs. Samuels.  She actually did all of the packaging, including the red wax.  Smart lady.  The “S” stands for Samuels and “IV” was the 4th generation.  The star has something to do with the name of the farm… like I said, I don’t soak in all the info.  I’m far to busy skirting around people to set up shots.  I’m sure at least 10 people in our group thought I was a nut.

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Then on to bottling.  Which wasn’t cool because they aren’t bottling right now.  Though Maker’s Mark is the oldest and one of the smallest distilleries in the world, they complete every step of the bourbon making process – from brewing to mashing to bottling to shipping – all in Loretto, Kentucky.  Cool, huh? All of that goodness coming from a town with one stop light. Whodathunk.

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And then on to the barrels.  I could have easily spent an hour in this building by myself just snapping away.  But I couldn’t.  And I had to share my experience with something like 30 other people.  All strangers, except for VJ.  The barrels were stacked high and apparently this is where the magic happens.  Where the bourbon takes on that caramel color and that rich flavor we all love.  Mmm.

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Finally, we taste test.  Not really much of a test for me as we usually have a bottle of Maker’s around the house.  It is my DAd’s choice of bourbon and the hubs enjoy it but he tends to be a fan of all things bourbon and bounces around on the brands.  And though whiskey tends to be less expensive in Kentucky (because it’s made here) I do not use Maker’s in my bourbon balls – that’s a waste of good liquor.

Anywho, two tastes: the original Maker’s we’re all familiar with and then “white dog”.  If memory serves, white dog is what the whiskey looks like before it goes in the barrel.  Not much flavor, smelled like yeast, but was still smooth.

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It was a nice detour and I’d probably do it again.  If you’re ever in the area and looking to learn more about how this delicious libation is made, check out the Kentucky Bourbon Trail website.  Or if you’re ever around Bardstown, Kentucky, there’s a handful to choose from.  Be sure to put Maker’s on the list.

Maker’s Mark Distillery
Star Hill Farm
Loretto, Kentucky USA
www.MakersMark.com
To learn more about Brooke and see her recent work, visit her new site at brookemurphyphoto.com. Follow Brooke on Facebook or Twitter.

October 20, 2009 - 10:38 am

Julie - If you ever want a refresher course on how bourbon is made, I’m your girl. I love the history of the industry. What great shots! (Pun intended, lol.)

October 20, 2009 - 2:24 pm

J. Smith - You should do a tour at Woodford sometime. Now THAT is a beautiful distillery. On top of it all you have to drive smack dab through stereotypical horse country with tiny 2 lane roads dripping with mature oak trees and white horse fences to get to it. Fantastic!

October 22, 2009 - 8:43 am

Rev - The star is for “Star Hill Farms” which is the name of the farm that the distillery is on. I think the four meant that they were 4th generation distillers, which was important because most alcohol of the time was named after the distiller but Mr. Samuels had sold the rights to his name on alcohol prior to buying the star hill farm (I think heaven hill still owns it). Mrs. Samuels was into English silver/china and the logo with the S and the star was the original “name” of the bourbon (think Prince’s sign). The practice was common in English china/silver at the time. But during the planning time prior to the bourbon being released…everyone referred to the bourbon as the “Makers Mark”, because the symbol they put on the product was un-pronounceable… apparently that stuck.

October 22, 2009 - 10:12 am

shutterboo - Thank you for the history lesson, Rev. :) They said all of that… I was just too busy playing photographer to pay attention.

October 23, 2009 - 10:22 am

Wendi - I love the rich color saturation in these photos.

October 23, 2009 - 11:07 am

Mrs. Rev - I’m impressed with how sharp these shots are. When we went to Makers I got blurry shot after blurry shot, especially in the barrel house. I’m jealous. I second the vote for Woodford. I’d love to check that place out.

October 23, 2009 - 11:15 am

shutterboo - Let’s go then. It ain’t far. And then we can pull over on the side of the road and get beautiful country landscapes with fall colors. Oooh, photo road trip!

October 25, 2009 - 10:00 pm

shutterboo - Oh – my shots are sharp because the human tripod rocked it that day. *high-fiving myself*

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