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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Barton 1792, Kentucky, USA

My fourth stop of the day (but this distillery, like Buffalo Trace, is owned by Sazerac and is not on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail) and if the Jim Beam experience lowered my expectations regarding the asthetic qualities of bourbon distilleries, then Barton 1792 sent them crashing through the floor.  This was a whiskey factory and industrial site, pretty it aint.  Still I really like the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve so this is still worth seeing as it goes some considerable way to dispel the Scottish distllery myths about the location, water and overall "terroir" magically contributing to the wonderful spirit.  1792 is a great product... and it is made in slightly run down, red brick factory in the middle of Bardstown.  I also learned that the 1792 date is a bit misleading, it has nothing to do with the distillery, but was chosen because it was the year that Kentucky became a commonwealth of the United States (well played Sazerac Marketing Department).  My tour was a little surreal, they are not in production now so our first stop was the obligatory bottling hall where we got to see (and hear) Taaka vodka filling.  Vodka on a bourbon tour?  Our guide seemed to have carte blanche to wander the site and so we did, rather aimlessly, looking at warehouses full of Magaritaville mixers and Cluny blended scotch as well as loaders, boiler houses and weigh bridges with the same level of enthusiasm as the stills or warehouses themselves.  This was a tour that desperately needed some structure and editing.... even I was bored by the end.  Simply put they need a story... what are they trying to tell the visitor?  Jim Beam talked about their family heritage, Maker's focussed on their brands, Heaven Hill told the overall bourbon story.  Sazaerac... come up with a story and then build a tour.  The highlight was without doubt the samples at the end, one I had never even seen before but will definately look for, Very Old Barton, and of course the excellent, high rye content, 1792. Just before I left I was, of course, offered a chocolate and I realized I had just been to my first Kentucky distillery that DIDN"T have a Beam connection.

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Maker's Mark, Kentucky, USA

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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