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  • Writer's pictureJay Hicks

A Visit to Maker's Mark

COVID has changed many things - but as of the 1st of October 2020, Star Hill Farms and Maker’s Mark Distillery have reopened.

Even though masks are required, you can still have a fantastic time at one of America's GR8 bourbon distilleries. You need to get tickets in advance and sign a waiver, with both available online at the Maker’s Mark Website.

Unfortunately, I had not realized the home of Maker’s Mark was in the Eastern Time Zone, until almost too late. After a harried one and half hour drive from Bowling Green, we were soon calmed by the views along the winding roads to Loretto, Kentucky. The entrance to the Farm provided a quintessential Kentucky view comprised of rolling hills, farmland and distillery.

After a quick discussion and showing of tickets we were on our way down the hill to ground zero of small batch bourbon manufacturing. T William Samuel and his wife Margie purchased the Burks Distillery and surrounding farm near Loretto for $35,000 in 1953. Together, they put together an enduring dynasty, producing one of America’s most iconic bourbons on the grounds of a superbly scenic distillery.

Our lovely Bardstown tour guide stated that “Everything inside the bottle was Mr. Samuel’s – Everything outside was Margie’s”. So we know who to thank for the sweet and spicy creation and the iconic squarish bottle, the label, and the dripping wax. In fact, T William did not like wax idea initially, until Margie asked him what the first thing he noticed about the bottle. Our docent stated the logo ‘Star S IV’ is forged into the bottle glass and on every label. The ‘Star’ is for the farm, the ‘S’ for Samuels, and “‘IV’ because Samuels was a registered fourth-generation whisky-maker in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The mashing and bottling are performed in the same way the first batch initially was produced in 1953. Bottling still occurs after six years of aging, as it did in 1958/1959. Apart from the addition of computers for production tracking and a demand for evermore bourbon, almost nothing has changed since the 1950s.

“Everything inside the bottle was Mr. Samuel’s – Everything outside was Margie’s”

Until 1972, Maker’s Mark was only available in Kentucky. Production increases enabled America to enjoy this bourbon ever since. However, in 2014 production and storage was again doubled, and when the bourbon has aged to perfection, Maker’s Mark embarks on its journey to “Seduce the World” in mid-2021.

We sampled four different bourbons, all made from the same tried and true recipe. We started with traditional Maker’s Mark and quickly moved on to Maker’s 46, having 10 additional flavored wooden staves introduced for nine more weeks. We then sampled Cask Strength at 110 proof and a Private Select. I say, “a Private Select” because each batch is produced from a barrel with 10 custom wood finishing staves added, providing over 1,001 possible stave combinations.

You will find the lovely Star Hill Provisions restaurant serving local ingredients and signature drinks on the grounds. Gift shops and lovely vistas provide for a wonderful experience not to be missed when in central Kentucky.

COVID has changed many things - but you can still have a wonderful day at a Maker's Mark in Loretto, Kentucky.

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