An illustration of the Maker’s Mark distillery appears on its bottles; the label invites you to visit “any time you’re in the neighborhood,” so you know the place must be special. Just as Bill Samuels Sr. wanted to create his own distinctive bourbon by using gentle winter wheat instead of rye, he wanted to restore a historic distillery complex into the home of Maker’s Mark.
Your tour of this National Historic Landmark distillery begins near the stonewalled creek that runs through the peaceful, landscaped grounds, where you’ll hear a brief history of the distillery. Its black buildings feature bright red shutters with a Maker’s Mark bottle cutout. Unlike larger distilleries’ 600-barrel-per-day production, Maker’s Mark crafts its bourbon in 19 barrel batches.
In the still house you’ll smell corn, wheat, and malted barley cooking. The bubbling yellow mash ferments in century-old cypress vats. Vaporization of the mash in the shiny copper still separates out the whiskey, which is placed in charred oak casks for aging. When you enter the aging warehouse’s ground floor, the aromas alone tell you what’s in the barrels. Barrels reach maturity only after completing a rotation system in which the newest barrels are placed on the warehouse’s hot upper floors and are rotated to the cooler lower levels after about three years.
Only in the bottling house does the production pace quicken. Near the end of the line, each bottle’s glass neck is hand-dipped into red sealing wax and then twisted to allow the excess to drip off and run down the neck. Notice each worker’s distinctive dipping and twisting technique.
Freebies: Water and lemonade; bourbon ball sample; great smells.
Video/DVD Shown: No
Reservations Needed: No, except for groups larger than 25 people.
Days and Hours: Mon–Sat 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, and 3:30 pm, Sun 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, and 3:30 pm. Closed on Sundays in January and February. No production from mid-August–mid-September, but tour still runs. Limited weekend production. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Easter Sunday.
Plan to Stay: 45 minutes to an hour for the tour, plus time for visitors center and Quart House. Once a pre–Civil War distiller’s home, the visitor’s center has pieces from the Samuels’ collection of early-1800s furniture and other historical and craft items. The Quart House, oldest standing package liquor store in America, is a restored pre-Prohibition retail store.
Minimum Age: Recommends that children under 10 be accompanied by an adult. You must be 21 to purchase and dip your own bottle of Maker’s Mark.
Disabled Access: Yes. Paved walking paths between buildings.
Group Requirements: Requests prior notice for groups of 25 people or more.
Special Information: The Bottling line does not run every day, but visitors can purchase souvenir bottles to dip in the signature red wax every day except Sunday.
Gift Shop: The Gift Gallery in the visitor center sells logoed and craft items, including shirts, sweaters, jackets, key chains, and shot glasses. Also, gourmet sauces and candies made with Maker’s Mark. Open Mon–Sat 10:00 am–4:30 pm, Sun 1:00–4:30 pm.
Directions: From Bardstown, take KY 49 South and follow signs to distillery. You’re there when you see the sign that says, “You’ve Just Found the Home of Maker’s Mark.”
Nearby Bourbon-Related Attractions: Heaven Hill Distillery tour (call 502-348-3921); Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History (call 502-348-2999); Jim Beam’s American Outpost (call 502-543-9877); Annual September Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown.