Day two at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival started with a trip to the Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, KY. Maker’s Mark Master Distiller Kevin Smith, our tour guide for the day, took us around the distillery grounds while articulating the history behind the brand. We witnessed the intricacies of making bourbon and each stage of its life cycle, from grain mixture to clear, high proof distillate to young bourbon in the barrel and, finally, to the finished product.
We tasted ample sums of Maker’s Mark bourbon along the tour, including the 130 proof clear distillate affectionately referred to as “white dog.” After hand-dipping our own Maker’s Mark bottles into red wax to create the traditional seal, the tour ended with Kevin Smith taking us through a tasting of several kinds of whiskey, including bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and Canadian whiskey, allowing us to compare flavors and aromas across a variety of spirits.
Following the tour, we enjoyed drinks and dinner at the home of Maker’s Mark President Bill Samuels, son of Maker’s Mark founder T.W. Samuels. Mr. Samuels embodied the spirit of Kentucky, proving to be a gracious, entertaining host, and a man very serious about bourbon.