Bourbon Trail: Day 3

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North America » United States » Kentucky » Bardstown
October 3rd 2013
Published: May 22nd 2014
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We are in the home stretch! A few more distilleries to go and we have completed our journey. Maker's Mark is the first today, and one of the distilleries I was looking forward to the most. You can easily spot Maker's Mark at the bar because the bottle tops are dipped in red wax before shipping. Originally a clever marketing tactic by the founders, the Samuel's Family. It was supposed to give it a classy look similar to that of a cognac. Also the label carries the "maker's mark" which is a stamp that ranchers would use to distinguish their cattle from other herds. One of my favorites, Maker's is more than just a great marketing campaign, the bourbon is the real deal. It has a sweet soft taste that is hard to find in other bourbons. Part of the reason why is that in it's mash bill, Maker's replaces rye, which can add spice to the liquor, with wheat, which is a much more delicate and softer grain. The result is a fantastic contribution to the bourbon community. Recently, Maker's has been producing a new bourbon called Maker's 46. After six years, they add five, four char French Oak barrel staves into the barrels for a about 3-6 months. This adds a heavy vanilla and caramel flavor with little of the bitter back end. If you enjoy a sweeter bourbon with a heavy alcohol content, than this is a welcomed upgrade to the original recipe. Finally, one of the best parts about the tour is that you get to bottle your own Maker's Mark bottle culminating with the traditional red wax dip at the end of the tour. A real treat for any Maker's Mark fans out there. The Heaven Hill Heritage Center was next on the list. It stands where the old Heaven Hill distillery sat. There was a fire at the original Heaven Hill Distillery and in a true show of brotherhood, the other bourbon producers contributed portions of their operations to the Heaven Hill Brand to distill, while they got back on their feet. The bottling still takes place in Bardstown, but the distillation takes place in Louisville. The Evan Williams Experience unfortunately was not ready for this trip, as they were still building it in Louisville, and while Heaven Hill is not a particular favorite of mine the whiskies were enjoyable. The center gave a nice lecture on the history of Bourbon, with a tasting afterwards. They told an interesting perspective on how the government would tax the liquor at the distilleries by stationing a federal tax collector there. In order too keep the distilleries honest, they required bars on the first floors to avoid the removal of barrels without paying the tax. They even named one of the brands after Old Fitzgerald a tax collector who loved to sample the product! Prohibition was a very difficult time in Kentucky almost wiping out the bourbon industry. Only a select few distilleries like Beam were able to stay in production for "medicinal" purposes. The legend of Rev. Elijah Craig was a good one as well. Legend says that he had a fire that charred the wood used for his barrels. When he was sending his hooch down to New Orleans he would place a bourbon stamp to identify his barrels being from Kentucky. By the time the barrels would reach New Orleans the aging process would have taken effect and the liquor, originally clear, would contain the brown coloring and flavor profile of whiskey rather than a clear spirit. Since the barrels were labeled as bourbon, the name stuck and the rest was history! The final stop was Beam. Beam was more enjoyable than I originally thought it would be. The tour was very personal for such a large manufacture. Beam is the big player in the industry. The family has their hand in just about all things that are bourbon, and the white label is the number one selling brand of bourbon in the world. It is an American icon like Jack Daniel's or McDonalds, and for a mass produced whiskey, I will say it is not half bad. You can do MUCH worse than one of the three wise men of whiskey! I was able to do another dipping of a Knob Creek bottle, which I loved, snuck in some cask strength bourbon fresh out of the barrel, and between my father and I got to sample many of the Beam brands. The angles share is the portion of the whiskey that evaporates into the air, "for the angles," but the liquor that remains trapped in the wood of the barrel has been cleverly coined, "the devils cut." Beam created a bold flavored whiskey called the Devil's Cut, which extracts the additional liquor that remains in the wood of the barrel and blends it with is original recipe. It has a heavy wood flavor as one would expect, and if you enjoy that strong wood flavor then bottle of the Devil's Cut should find it's way into your liquor cabinet. Well the Bourbon Trail was the most expensive free t-shirt I have ever gotten! Many miles were traveled and much bourbon consumed, but I will say it was an unforgettable experience. It was a great opportunity to spend some quality time with my father and expand my knowledge of a great American spirit. While the "trail" portion of our trip was over we still have plenty of fun things planned. Horse Racing and bourbon go together like peanut butter and jelly and we have a great day at the Churchill Downs planned. When we arrive in Louisville, we have a pub crawl known as the Urban Bourbon Trail scheduled as well. It will be nice to not have to worry about traveling and finally rest in once place for a bit. While the trail may have come to an end the adventure has really just begun!

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