From New Haven we headed out to see our first distillery on "The Bourbon Trail. It was Joel's 65th birthday and he planned on celebrating a little.
Makers Mark Distillery is a small family run distillery in the heart of Kentucky. I didn't know much about Whiskey/Bourbon production and what made bourbon, bourbon and what made different bourbons unique. The tour proved to be very informative. I learned the term whiskey is generic for liquor made with corn, barley, rye or wheat, and that bourbon by law has to be made with at least 51% corn and then the rest barley, rye, or wheat and must be aged in new charred white oak barrels and has to be at least 80 proof. The recipe or mixture of grains, yeast, and the time aged is what gives the individual bourbons its unique taste. Kentucky bourbon has to be made in Kentucky to be called Kentucky bourbon...dah!
This is the actual distillery. The mash is pumped into the containers and heated and the vapours are captured. The resulting liquid is clear and can run about 160 proof. It's called white lightening or white dog or moon shine. The liquid is put in new white oak charred barrels for aging like the ones below. At Makers Mark, one of their bourbons is aged in barrels with additional charred staves (the one on the right) to give the bourbon a darker richer flavor. After the aging the bourbon is tested for alcohol content and pure limestone filtered water is added if necessary to reduce the alcohol content to below 125 proof.
The barrels and then taken to the ware house and stacked in ricks (layers). Each barrel hold 53 gallons of bourbon. At Makers Mark the barrels are rotated from top to bottom. Each distiller ages their bourbon a little differently, which makes each brand unique. The warehouses of the individual distillery vary from one story to eight stores.
They also bottle all of their products on site.
Makers Mark is just one of six Distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. I've been on many winery tours and touring distillery is much like touring an old winery in Napa Valley. There is lots of tradition and history in each of the distilleries. The architecture and grounds are interesting. Most are family owned or family run much like vineyards. The only difference is that the distilleries do not grow their own grains.
From Makers Mark we headed on to Bardstown, Ky. There are several distilleries near Bardstown that are part of the Bourbon Trail, which we plan on visiting. With each distillery being a little different, we ought to get quite in education about Bourbon. After all, Kentucky is the Bourbon Capital of the world.