On a beautiful fall weekend, Nathan and I drove down to Kentucky to visit the Maker’s Mark Distillery. A few years ago, Nathan signed up for the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program. As a part of that membership, his name was added to a barrel of bourbon and with that, the five-to-seven-year time clock for the aging process begins. When bourbon tasters decide it’s ready, you are invited to visit the distillery in Loretto, go on a tour, and purchase bottles from your barrel!
Bourbon is an American distilled, barrel-aged spirit which falls under the larger whiskey umbrella. You may notice an odd spelling of whiskey on a bottle of Maker’s. A nod to the founders’ Scottish heritage, they use the Scotch spelling of ‘whisky.’ What I was most looking forward to on our tour was the chance to dip the bottles we were to purchase in the signature red wax. We learned that the founder, Bill Samuels Sr. had a marvelous marketer in his wife, Margie. She was the one who came up with the idea for the red wax on the bottle neck based on her collection of old French cognac bottles. She is also credited with naming of the brand itself, as well as the logo and the label design. When naming the new bourbon, she was inspired by the ‘maker’s marks’ that pewter smiths put on their very best work. For the Samuels’ mark, the star is borrowed from the family farm, ‘Star Hill Farm,’ the S is for ‘Samuels’ and the IV is for the fourth generation distiller (Bill Sr.) who created the bourbon. Amazingly, each bottle of Maker’s Mark you see on a shelf is still dipped by hand!
If you have time for only one distillery tour on Kentucky’s Bourbon trail, it should be Maker’s Mark. The grounds are beautifully kept, the guides and staff are incredibly warm and welcoming, the tour is five-star fun and informative, the gift shop is pretty much a candy store. And lunch at their restaurant, Star Hill Provisions cannot be missed — an elevated take on Southern comfort classics. We left with plenty of souvenirs. Soon, I’ll be using a bottle of Maker’s Mark to make a new batch of homemade bourbon vanilla extract (I keep a vodka-based vanilla extract on hand I made a few years ago). I look forward to a return visit when face masks are no longer a thing!