Good Kentucky bourbon relies on the purity of its limestone-rich water, which is
why the distillery is sited here in Loretto near a 10-acre limestone spring-fed lake
Where We Be
Tours of Maker's Mark Distillery leave from this pretty farmhouse in the Kentucky boondocks
Bourbon Trail, Kentucky
Maker's Mark is 18 miles from the other nearest distillery that offers tours, but the beautiful buildings and grounds make it worth the extra drive
From Lexington we followed the Bourbon Trail
towards Bardstown, passing most of the key
bourbon distilleries along the way – Woodford
Reserve, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, Heaven Hill,
and Maker’s Mark. We saw signs for Jim Beam
but headed instead towards Maker's Mark in
Loretto because we had read on TripAdvisor
they had particularly good tours and tastings.
We don't usually drink bourbon but we decided
to become bourbon drinkers for the day since
we were right in the heart of Bourbon Country.

It turns out Maker’s Mark is the oldest distiller
of Kentucky bourbon. It started out as Burk’s
Distillery in 1889, and an even older distillery
occupied the site as far back as 1805. A small
building called the "Quart House" still stands
on the premises to this day; in the old days,
folks used to come there to fill up their quart-
sized bottles with good ol' Kentucky bourbon.

The distillery buildings are painted “whiskey
brown,” and the red shutters even have
whiskey bottles carved into them. It was the
distiller's wife who did the decorating, and she
was also the marketing genius who came up
with the idea of dipping Maker’s Mark bottles
in red wax – the signature seal that has had
much to do with their success as a brand.

Our tour guide did a great job of explaining the
distilling process. Unquestionably the highlight
of the tour was getting to dip our fingers right
into a huge bubbling vat of mash. The taste of
the mash was grainy and sweet. The presenter
said, “Now every time you have a glass of
Maker’s Mark, you’ll probably wonder whose
finger was in it!” But thankfully he went on to
explain there were no worries of contamination
since the mash would go on to be distilled to
130 proof at extremely high temperatures,
which no contaminant could survive.
We tasted two brands of Maker’s Mark, their regular Kentucky bourbon and a smoother offshoot called Makers Mark 46 (aged with French oak)
We got our own private tour of the distillery room from a helpful employee who was on break
Whiskey bottles are carved into the red shutters -- a nice touch!
Here you can see Whiskey Creek winding its way through the property
At the "dipping station," the hostess finishes dipping four glasses in the distinctive red wax that has had much to do with Maker's Mark's success
We learned Maker’s Mark is known for using red winter wheat instead of rye, giving it a less bitter taste than traditional bourbons
We enjoyed getting to watch as customers dipped their gift shop bottles of Maker’s Mark in hot red wax -- the signature seal of Maker's Mark
This is “Quart House” where in the old days customers
used to come to fill up their quart-size bottles with bourbon
Besides bourbon, Bardstown is famous for the Stephen Foster song "My Old Kentucky Home." This isn't the actual home, but it almost could be!
We stopped in Bardstown long enough to take a quick walk through the historic downtown area -- above is the distinctive visitor's center
This is the distillery itself where all the good stuff happens
The highlight of the official tour was getting to dip our fingers directly into the huge bubbling vat of mash shown above. The mash tasted
grainy and sweet. Our tour guide said, “Now every time you have a glass of Maker’s Mark, you’ll no doubt wonder whose finger was in it!”
Inside the distillery it's noisy and warm
Even the whiskey wagon was decorated for Christmas