Have you ever just grabbed a handful of oatmeal? That’s what it felt like when I of reached my hand into the 3 day old mash tub at Maker’s Mark. I guess I should back track to the beginning of our tour so you don’t think we just I am just running around sticking my hands into things to ruin your next red dipped bottle.
Maker’s Mark was our first tour of many as Friends of Limestone, as we go along this journey together, I will be highlighting and visiting different distilleries around Kentucky. Maker’s Mark Distillery is located in Loretto, KY, so once you think you’ve gotten lost, you’re almost there! If you haven’t had the chance to visit, it is highly worth the drive.
Onto the tour…
We started out learning a little bit about the history of Maker’s Mark & I could give you the full run down on how Maker’s Mark got started, but that’s what Google is for.
Maker’s Mark helped shape and change the whole bourbon industry. Margie Samuels (wife of Bill Samuels Sr.) is a total badass of the bourbon industry!! It was Margie’s idea to dip the bottles in red wax, starting the process on her kitchen table that happens on the bottling line today. Even to this day, each bottle is hand dipped. Think about that, every Maker’s Mark bottle is completely different. Pretty crazy huh? She also created a bread recipe that turned into bourbon, designed the logo, and picked the shape of the bottle! (okay done fan-girling over her…but c’mon she’s great!)
Now, if you remember back to my previous post on what makes Bourbon, you should remember that some Bourbons are made with rye and some are made with wheat. Maker’s Mark is made up of 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% barley. This adds up to a grain alcohol that reaches 110 proof .
Before combining all of these ingredients to start cooking, Maker’s Mark stands out once again by using a Roller Mill to break up the grains, most distilleries use a hammer mill instead. The reason behind using a Roller Mill is to help keep the bitter taste out of these grains. Once all of these ingredients are broken up and combined, they are cooked. They spend 3-4 hours cooking, then chill to between 80 and 85 degrees.
Once this mash bill is done cooling, then comes the yeast! From the very first bottle until the one being barreled today, Maker’s Mark has used the same yeast strain. This yeast strain has been passed down over 6 generations, and is kept in different parts of the world (just in case you were wondering, they won’t tell you all the locations!)
Now on to the fermentation process, this is where each of us got to try out a 1 day old mash, a 2 day old mash, and then the hard oatmeal feeling of a 3 day old mash. The texture and the taste changed after each day. These are fermented in 9600 gallon tubs – TALK ABOUT BIG! The room smells a lot like beer, which to me smelt pretty good! Next we got to see the copper stills, this where you will see what is called White Dog in the bourbon industry (to make it simple, unaged bourbon), and the distilling process begins. This was another cool part of our tour, trying the white dog directly from the still. If you ever want something to burn your nose, take a good smell of this!
Now the best part! Time to fill up the barrels that give Maker’s sweet smooth taste! Until this tour, I never really thought about how the barrels were made, I only cared what was in them. Maker’s Mark buys their barrels locally, once the barrels are made, they sit outside for almost a year to get the definite shape and begin to bring out the wood flavors before ever being filled. Once arriving to the distillery, they are charred at a grade 3, to make the bourbon just a little sweeter.
Each bottle of Maker’s Mark is aged for around 6 years. 3 years at the top of the warehouse and 3 years at the bottom. Throughout this aging process, the barrel is tasted up to 6 times! (Where can I get that job??) They taste these barrels to guarantee each bottle taste like the very first one. Can you guess how many barrels are aging at this very moment?! Whatever you’re thinking…think a little higher. Now, guess around 800,000!!
I don’t want to spoil all of the tour details, but when you go, check out the creak that runs through the grounds and the wall that is exposed where the Maker’s 46 and private select bottles are stored. THAT’S ALL LIMESTONE! Bill Samuels Sr. bought this piece of land because of the Limestone water that filtered right on his distillery. Now that is something incredible!
Before I leave you wanting to make the drive to middle of nowhere Kentucky, remember that, each bottle of Maker’s Mark taste like the very first one. Which really means, it’s like having a drink with Mr. Samuels himself, right? .. a girl can dream!