Friday, June 7, 2013

Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Maker's Mark - Loretto, KY

Yesterday I shared with you highlights of our trip to Cumberland Falls and Lost Lodge. On the trip back home to Cincinnati, we decided to take the long way home and stop by Makers Mark in Loretto, KY. 

Makers is out in the COUNTRY - just fyi when you go. This is our 2nd stop on the official Bourbon Trail so we weren't sure what to expect. The signage on the way is great though.

Lead Educator and Bourbon Specialist for Makers Mark Dave Pudlo was our personal tour guide (Tour is normally $7/each - they gave us the tour for free so I could tell you guys all about it!)

Dave was great - he had even done his homework on me and my blog! He knew I didn't like bourbon and told me right off the bat - his goal today was to get me to not hate bourbon. THAT would be a steep goal...could he do it?

First - Dave gave us a history lesson. I can't even BEGIN to tell you all the history he shared with us. Larry LOVES history so he was soaking it all in and then sharing it with anybody that would listen for days to come! One little tidbit was that Thomas Jefferson abolished whiskey tax and is now known as "patron saint of KY" because of his extremely "Patriotic" act.

We also learned that the liquor folks wanted to make bourbon the US-made replacement for cognac and luckily for Makers - they succeeded. We also heard a little about George Remus - he's a Cincinnatian who had a LOT of scandal and owned a lot of distilleries. I really need to find out more about this cat!

After Prohibition the folks at Makers wanted to make whiskey taste good. It had lost some of it's integrity and they wanted to turn that around. It was simple ingredients: corn, soft red winter wheat and  malted barley with no bitter taste.

This is one of the original buildings on the Makers Mark campus. Their original goal was 2,000 barrels a year...um they now make 1 million a year! I'd say they hit their mark.

The Makers Mark campus is beautiful and peaceful. I would love to work there - just to sit outside at lunch and walk around!

I guess that's the benefit of having someplace that's also open for public tours - they keep it immaculate!

This was not any ordinary tour - Dave took us EVERYWHERE! You won't even believe what we did ...but first we had to learn more about the ingredients:
  • coarse ground grain - not powdered like some "others"
  • wheat is all local
  • corn is from KY & IN
  • Barley from MN & Dakotas
  • Makers grows their own yeast
So in we went to find out about the magic!

What's this? It's a big giant machine that the grain goes through. It was crazy - we hiked up 3 flights of stairs to the top of the barn just to see this. We get up there and it's shaking like the whole place is going to fall (it won't) and we see corn tumbling out...but then we also see

a bucket of this!!! That's all the crap that comes in with the corn! All that shaking gets rid of the junk! Yeah for shaking! I don't want to drink that.

Now when I said they make their own yeast - really they do! Dave keeps a jar of it in the cooler and takes a swig on a regular basis. We were both a bit nervous about trying it - but what the hey - this doesn't happen every day! It really didn't taste too bad - it was kind of sweet.

Then we went into the big vat room - where everything is mixing together. We actually got to stick our fingers in here and taste the goo!!! Seriously - who gets to do that? It was easily one of the coolest food blogger things I've gotten to do.

As with the jar of yeast - I was a bit nervous but Doug said - "Hey, the bubbles are just the yeast making babies." Oh yes - that helps. #notsomuch I think what amazes me is that the yeast just does this - it's not boiling or being cooked - it's just literally - YEAST. MAKING. BABIES!

We got to taste 3 barrels - one that had just gone in, one that had been in for a day and one for 3 days. It had a bit of a cereal taste but it was really sweet and tart at the same time. You could actually think about scooping up a bowl of it to eat. It was some good stuff!

Then the goo goes through these big distillers...yes technical terms abound. Honestly Dave taught us so much - but I didn't want to be writing notes the whole time - I wanted to experience it!

The alcohol that comes through these copper tubs is still clear and sure enough - Dave pulled up a scoop and handed it over.

Holy crap - it was awful. Seriously awful! He knew I'd say that - but he said it's a big part of the process to taste it before and after. Hopefully the after would be better than this!

And of course - with all of these barns - we had to see a cat! Of course since he was super-friendly - I picked him right up and started mauling him. Dave wasn't quite ready for that. :-) Kitty was though.

Then into the warehouse to see the barrels aging. It's always a good picture...

Here's a barrel before and after. The white oak gets carmelized before the whiskey goes in...

Then for the very special Makers 46 - the whiskey goes in for 6 months - then they take it out and add the white oak staves you see and put the whiskey back in for 9 weeks. Out comes even better Makers Mark 46.

Makers Mark has a beautiful tasting room all set up and ready for the next group coming through on a tour. Their goal is for you to taste the tingle at the front of your tongue and no bitter in the back.

From left to right we had over-done bourbon, "just right" Makers, under-done bourbon and Makers Mark 46.

You definitely could taste why the over & under done bourbon's weren't for sale. They were pretty awful! I couldn't tell a difference between Makers & 46. But - I could taste the tingle on the tip of my tongue and no bitterness on the back of my tongue! It was a victory for Dave!

Dave knew too that I probably wouldn't be one to sip Makers in my ascot - so he shared with me a couple of ways his wife likes to drink it!

Summer Breeze - ginger ale, peach schnapps & Makers Mark
Fruity - muddle up some blueberries, add OJ & Makers Mark - then strain & pour!

We also got a taste of the bourbon chocolates - always my favorite part of the Bourbon Trail!

The tasting room has a view of quite a few barrels with names on them. If you sign up for the free Makers Mark Ambassador program - that could be you! They have an app and you can keep track of your barrel and then buy a bottle from it when it's ready!

Their store is pretty cool as well - they have pretty much anything you can imagine here and the prices range from $3 on up - so you don't have to spend an arm & a leg.

Then Dave surprised Larry & I each with our own bottle of Makers Mark and we'd get to dip it ourselves!!!

You get to write your name and date on the bottle - 

Then get suited up in some hot gear! Here we are posing for our Makers Mark picture before we dip...

After a quick tutorial - we did the dip & twist...

Pull it out, twist it around...

Then give it a little pound on the table to make the trademark drips! 

All in all - it was a wonderful trip to Makers Mark and southern Kentucky. We had a nice stay at Lost Lodge, took in a waterfall and then learned a lot about bourbon and tasted it at every stage of the process!

And if you haven't been on the Bourbon Trail - it's so much fun! Even if you're not a fan of bourbon (like me for the most part) - you learn a lot and get to try something new!

Thanks so much to Dave for the special private tour - we felt like rock stars!

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