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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

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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Jim Beam, Kentucky, USA

Jim Beam, Kentucky, USA My first major US distillery and the first stop I made on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in May 2012.  To call this a distillery visit is a bit misleading... as the official name is the Jim Beam Heritage Tour and you don't get to see any of the actual working distillery (except for one warehouse).  Instead the focus is on the Beam family distilling history (which begins with Jacob Beam.... not Jim) and and also learn about their product range.  This is not the artisanal style of distillery I have been used to seeing in Scotland, this is a major whisky factory wth over 475 employees (thats about 450 more men than you find in Tain and 472 more than Benromach).  I learned that 95% of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky and 50% of that is made by Jim Beam.   Their range is a bit of a mixed bag for me... I like Jim Beam Black (but not the standard White label), I like Booker's but not Baker's and I love Knob Creek but don't like Basil Hayden.  All of these Beam brands are made at this facility and interestingly all made with the usual suspects of corn, rye and malted barley... not a wheated bourbon in the range.  Highlight of tour was probably learning our guide was 8th generation Beam family and seeing the pride and passion in her for bourbon (and she was cute which also helped).  The tour was free and included a short video and samples of Jim Beam Black and Baker's small batch bourbon (and a sample of choclate to try with the Baker's... a recurring theme on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail).  The facility is currently undergoing an upgrade with a new store and a cafe and will in the future the tour will include the actual distillery.... so I will have to come back and revisit when that is complete and hopefully get the same guide.
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