Turning into Maker’s Mark to visit the distillery is a spoiler for things to come. Beautiful scenery, a “by the bootstrap” feel of the land, and a sense of impending history. It’s a feeling of beauty and purpose that is echoed from your first steps onto the property throughout the rest of the tour.
The visitor center is a short walk from the parking lot. It’s a white sun room at the end of a round cobblestone courtyard. In the center of the modern room lies a large copper pot still. It’s a nice prelude to the tour which highlighted Maker’s Mark’s innovation without sacrificing their heritage.
For those of you who are ambassadors, let them know. They will give you a dated pin for you to wear that is a nice souvenir and tip-of-the-hat to those who support their brand. It wasn’t much, but it was strangely meaningful to have a company as large as Maker’s do something thoughtful and appreciative for it’s volunteer ambassadors.
The campus itself was beautiful and spacious. Large historic buildings pepper immaculate greens and stone walkways. The guide was incredibly passionate about the distillery, which made for a nice and informative walk full of fun facts and insights into the day-to-day workings of the distillery.
The distillery itself is a gorgeous building with slotted metal gates rather than traditional doors we’ve seen at other distilleries. This allows the air to mix with the mash fermenting and lends a signature flavor that they believe is the stamp of the Maker’s brand. Which, is poetically true. Even their water is sourced on-property. They were happy to share that no drop of Maker’s Mark comes from imported water, it’s all from their on-site fresh-water spring. Since water is such a huge part of the distillation process, it means that no other brand can truly be a Maker’s clone. They also do almost everything in-house. From printing their labels on old-fashioned printers, to dipping the bottles, the majority of the process is done by hand to preserve the processes on which the distillery was built.
The building itself is a beautiful grey with “Michter’s red” shutters. It overlooks a small stream that runs throughout the distillery grounds.
The rick houses are beautiful and laced with different local artwork collections throughout the year. This adds another nice modern twist to an otherwise historic site, and highlights the evolving culture surrounding the distillery. It gives a nice flavor of generational fusion rather than divide.
The end of the tour takes you through the bottling room and into the barreling room. They take you into a more modern rick house designed for events with a large art display front and center. They told us that this is every barrel of Maker’s Mark 46 in the world in that single room. Neat.
They then take you to a beautiful and modern tasting room and give a nice presentation. One of the nifty things was that Maker’s has 100% of their products available for tasting. We got traditional Maker’s, Cask Strength, 101 (only available at the distillery), their private select (which happened to be RC6), and Maker’s 46.
Each of these different expressions have unique character and flavor that was highlighted well by our guide. I was quite partial to the cask strength and the private select.
The nice thing is that, if you enjoyed the tasting, all five of these products were readily available in the gift shop where you can also dip your own bottle of Maker’s (which we totally nailed).
Overall, it was a very fun experience and we would highly recommend you make this a stop on the tour if you love history, innovation, pride, passion, and beautiful scenery.
Greg Sinadinos started his spirits journey writing a whiskey periodical for Fine Tobacco NYC Magazine. He began answering review requests under a social media page he named “Whiskey Culture,” which quickly merged with Greg’s passion for connecting with others and his interest in history.
Today, Greg travels the country not just looking for great whiskey, but also exploring the history and individuals that the whiskey community is founded upon. He has authored “Whiskey History From Around The World” and is the host of “The Rickhouse” web series.