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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Buffalo Trace, Kentucky, USA

This distillery is owned by Sazerac and is not part of the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  It is the oldest continuously operated distillery in the USA as it continued to produce whiskey even during prohibition.  It is also a very "haunted" distillery and featured on an episode of Travel Channel's Ghost Hunters.  The tours are free and they also have a nice cafe as well as a well stocked gift shop.  This distillery is home to several very well known brands (Buffalo Trace aside) including the Van Winkle, Blanton and Weller lines and they make a total of 17 brands here of which 5 are wheated bourbons.   The tour does not see much of the actual distillery, but instead features a walk through the site to a converted warehouse where a movie called "The Buffalo Trace Story" is shown and then the guide gave a lecture on making bourbon.  This was my 7th distillery in 2 days but the first that actually talked in detail about the importance of malted barley.  We also learned the distillery boasts the largest fementers in the industry at 93,000 gals.  Suitably impressed by the size of their fermenters it was time to see the botting hall, fortunately it was not running, but then something a little strange happened.  The guide showed us the chill filtratioon system and was quite proud of it.  Chill filtration is something that Scots distillers dont even talk about, unless they are proudly claiming that they don't chill filter their products, but here was a tour guide actually pointing out the equipment they use to chill filter their whiskies.  It was a bit weird. After the bottling hall it was time for the tasting and they poured the Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare 10 year old expressions.

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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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