For the bourbon whisky enthusiast, one name stands out: Maker’s Mark, one of the most renowned brands in the world. But have you ever wondered, “Where is Maker’s Mark made?” Let’s take a deep dive into the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY, to unravel the unique characteristics of this full-flavored bourbon and discover what makes it a favorite.
Delving into the history of Maker’s Mark
The origin of Maker’s Mark can be traced back to 1953, when Bill Samuels Sr. aspired to create a new bourbon he could enjoy drinking. Abandoning the usual rye found in the mash bills of most bourbon, he opted for soft red winter wheat. This gave his bourbon a remarkably smoother flavor profile. In an experiment that involved baking various breads, Bill found the ideal grain combination: corn, red winter wheat, and barley. The ancient family recipe? Bill daringly burned it, marking the birth of a new era at the Burks Distillery.
Bill Samuels wasn’t alone in shaping the brand’s identity. His wife, Margie, envisioned the iconic square bottle, reminiscent of her cognac bottle collection. Her brilliant idea to hand dip each bottle into signature red wax remains a hallmark of Maker’s Mark. This red wax, combined with the label showcasing a star for Star Hill Farm, an ‘S’ for Samuels, and a IV, denoting the fourth generation of distillers, became synonymous with quality.
Maker’s Mark was a trailblazer, the first premium bourbon to grace the market. Its distinct quality and rich history led to its recognition as a National Historic Landmark in 1980, the first distillery to earn this honor while operational. Though owned by Beam Suntory today, the distillery in Loretto still remains under the watchful eye of the Samuels family, with Rob Samuels taking the helm as the current master distiller after Bill Samuels Jr.’s retirement in 2011.
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Exploring the production of Maker’s Mark
At the Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, KY, Maker’s Mark bourbon is produced in small batches, with no more than 19 barrels per batch. The mash bill includes 70% locally sourced corn, 16% soft red winter wheat, and 14% malted barley. The grains are cooked with Hardin’s Creek’s limestone-filtered water, which runs through the distillery property. The water’s rich mineral content and low iron levels contribute to the whisky’s quality and taste.
The cooked mash then undergoes fermentation with Maker’s Mark distillery’s yeast strain, in use since 1953. This yeast lends a fruity and spicy character to the whisky. Post a three-day fermentation period, the sour mash is ready for distillation. Distilled twice in copper pot stills, a more expensive and labor-intensive process than column stills, the sour mash transforms into a full-flavored bourbon. The initial distillation yields a low-proof alcohol, or ‘low wine’, which is then distilled again to produce a high-proof alcohol, also known as ‘high wine’ or ‘white dog’.
The ‘white dog’ is diluted with water to reduce its alcohol strength to 110 proof (55% ABV). It is then filled into new charred American oak barrels for aging. Charred for about 40 seconds, the barrels create a carbon layer that filters and stimulates flavor-enhancing chemical reactions. These barrels, stored in a seven-story, non-climate-controlled warehouse, are exposed to seasonal temperature and humidity variations. They are manually rotated from the upper to lower floors to ensure consistency during aging.
Rather than focusing on the time, the aging process is guided by the taste and typically lasts six to seven years. Instead of age statements, Maker’s Mark Distillery relies on its seasoned tasters to ascertain when each batch is ready for bottling. They seek a harmonious balance of oak, vanilla, caramel, and fruit flavors – the defining notes of Maker’s Mark bourbon. Once a batch is approved, it’s combined with other batches in a large tank to maintain product consistency.
The final step of production is the bottling line. Each bottle is filled with Maker’s Mark bourbon at 90 proof (45% ABV), considered the ideal strength for this whisky. Each bottle is hand-dipped in signature red wax at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius). This wax seals the bottle and imparts a unique appearance. No two bottles of Maker’s Mark bourbon are identical. Some even boast an ‘over-dip’, leading to a ‘slam dunk’ effect. Finally, the bottles are labeled and prepped for distribution.
Tasting the excellence
When tasting this full-bodied bourbon, pour it into a glass and let its golden hue captivate you. Its aroma is rich, with notes of caramel and a hint of strawberry. As you sip, you’ll discover its buttery texture and flavors of vanilla and toasted nut.
Whether enjoyed neat, with ice or as part of a cocktail, Maker’s Mark stands out. From classic drinks like an Old Fashioned to more adventurous concoctions, this bourbon whisky enhances every mix.
The legacy of Maker’s Mark spans over three generations of the Samuels family. The Maker’s Mark Distillery has consistently showcased passion and craftsmanship, from Bill Samuels Sr.’s innovative grain experiments to the iconic bottles hand-dipped in red wax. The tours offered at 3350 Burks Spring allow enthusiasts to experience this firsthand.
For those eager to delve deeper, the distillery offers extensive tours. These tours allow guests to understand the bourbon-making process, taste the different bourbons, hand-dip their first bottle in red wax, and even savor culinary delights at the Star Hill Provisions restaurant.
In the world of bourbons, Maker’s Mark is more than a name; it’s a testament to quality, tradition, and innovation. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned enthusiast, this bourbon offers an unparalleled experience.
Their website is a treasure trove of information for more insights into Maker’s Mark, its rich history, products, recipes, events, and more. And if you’re ever in Kentucky, don’t miss a chance to book a tour at the distillery in Loretto, where every sip tells a story.