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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Ardbeg, Islay, Scotland

This was the distllery I was most looking forward to visiting when we went to Islay in 2010.  Why?  Well Arbeg was the reason I even started drinking Islay's peated whiskies, though I had tried the unpeated Bunnahabhain before, and it was because of an expression called Blasda.   I tasted a sample of Blasda in Oddbins in Cults and thought it was delicious, very sweet and flavorful and with a lighter, more subtle peat taste.  So I bought a bottle and found it was the perfect entry into the world of Islay whisky.  The fact they made a whisky that was so approachable encouraged me to explore Ardbeg more and to look for the subtle, sweet flavors I loved in Blasda in their other expressions and to succesfully "look past the peat".  Before I knew it, I loved peated whisky.  The distillery is really well done with a great cafe, an expansive gift shop and a detailed tour with a knowledgable and passionate tour guide (all for about $3).  However the best part was the tasting as they pulled out the really good stuff.  They offered the standard 10 year old, Blasda (Tammy chose that), Uigeadail and even the amazing 60% abv Supernova.  I ended up buying the Supernova because it was so good.  Other distilleries take note, pouring your premium offerings can help sales, after all I am much more likely to spend $100 on a bottle of whisky if I have actually tried it.... just a suggestion.

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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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