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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Maker's Mark, Kentucky, USA

Next stop for me on Kentucky Bourbon Trail was Maker's Mark, which is a Beam owned brand, but very different to the main Beam facility I had just visited in Clermont.  Again the tour was free and included samples at the end.  In fact they gave a very nice mini tasting with the Maker's Mark white dog, standard Maker's Mark and the new Maker's 46.  This was also perhaps one of the best looking distilleries (the only real competition in the "pretty" stakes was Woodford Reserve) and certainly the best organized and informative tasting held in tasting rooms that had only been open for a week when I visited in May 2012.  We did get to see the working distillery and the label printing and bottling plants however the signature "dipping in to red wax" was not seen due to a problem with the bottling line that required some maintenance work.   Taking visitors to bottling plants, along with chocolate, was a very common theme of the KBT (Kentucky Bourbon Trail) which I just didn't get... they are noisy and contribute nothing to the spirit so why are they part of so many tours?  Of course the main focus at Maker's Mark are the things that make Marker's Mark Maker's Mark... the Samuel's family story, the winter red wheat instead of rye, the red wax and the SIV "maker's mark" on the bottle.  Overall one of the better tours if not the best.

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Stitzel-Weller, Kentucky, USA

Stitzel-Weller, Kentucky, USA

There is no tour here and in fact the distillery has been closed since 1992, although the warehouses and office are still used by one of Diageo’s brands, Bulleit, and it seems it may re-open in some fashion (at least as a vistor center if not a working distillery) in the future.  Located near the Louisville airport I paid a visit (to be precise I stood outside and took photos) because if you like bourbon the chances are you like the Van Winkle line (now made at Buffalo Trace) and this is their spiritual home.  Opened after prohibition in 1935 and acquired by Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle (you couldn't make that name up if you tried) it produced wheated bourbons like Old Fitzgerald, that name is painted on the brick chimney still standing in the grounds of the S-W distillery and which is now made by Heaven Hill, and the W L Weller line after which the distillery is named, and is also now made at Buffalo Trace.  I had the pleasure to meet Preston Van Winkle at WhiskyLive London in 2010 and wheated bourbon, specifically Maker's Mark (which uses same recipe as Julian Pappy Van Winkle used) was my entry into bourbon, just as Ardbeg Blasda was my entry into Islay whisky.  So this was somewhere I needed to see, my bourbon ground zero if you like, and a fitting last stop as I completed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in May 2012.  Perhaps I will be able to come back soon and step inside when it opens as the Diageo or Bulliet Bourbon Center.  The good news is of course it was free to stand outside and there was no bottling hall visit to endure! 

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