On our finale to our cross country drive and cycling vacation, we had one last stop to make in Kentucky. See, our son-in-law Mitchell was on a job assignment up there, and we just had to stop in and check it out. You know, it’s a tough job, but he was up in Kentucky and working on an expansion for Jim Beam … yep, that one … of the Kentucky Bourbon fame!
As soon as we entered the Jim Beam property, we saw the iconic Jim Beam building and these greenish buildings, which are called rickhouses. They store the barrels of bourbon-to-be during their aging process. I’m telling you, I was quite impressed with the number of these buildings … man, there’s a lot of bourbon going on! In fact, bourbon is going through quite an explosion in its popularity. In 1964, bourbon was declared as “America’s Native Spirit” through an act of congress and in 2007, they declared September as National Bourbon Heritage Month. Funny how times change, huh?
We wanted to check some of the process out, but many of the properties were actually closed for repairs, which is something that they do annually. So we decided to grab a bite to eat at Fred’s Smokehouse at the Clermont, Kentucky facility. If you ever are in the area and want some good BBQ, of course with a bourbon-flavored twist, I highly recommend it.
After lunch, we passed through the Jim Beam store, which features many products with the Jim Beam label and of course, enough bourbon and whiskey to go around for everyone. LOL
During our visit, we spent our time at just 2 (Jim Beam & Maker’s Mark) of the famed Official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Both properties were beautifully landscaped and offered tours of the distilleries.
With Jim Beam’s tours being down for the week, we opted for the tour of Maker’s Mark. Now, I’m not one of the millions of bourbon connoisseurs here in the US, but I was quite impressed with the process and learned a bunch.
Come join us as we embark on our tour. Of course, this is not a full re-count of the tour, simply some of the things that I found most impressive and got images of. 🙂
So many people, including myself, wonder … What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey? See, all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon … why is that?
There are many specifications to meet to be able to call yourself a bourbon. First of all, it must be produced in the United States! Well, I guess there’s at least one product that they can’t completely outsource. Another spec is that the ingredients in the making of bourbon must include at least 51% corn.
In the fermentation process, the mash fermenters “brew” so to speak in a huge oak based container that resembles a huge hot tub. In the image, those are bubbles from the mash (or grains) fermenting … quite cool actually.
Another spec for the labeling of a product as bourbon is that only water be used in the distilling process. All product must also be distilled to less than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume). When it’s placed into the charred, white oak barrels (another spec), it must be at less than 125% proof (another spec). They are stored in rackhouses which hold many, many barrels for a designated amount of time which varies upon the type of bourbon produced. Once the bourbon is sufficently aged in the barrel, the barrels can no longer be used to aged bourbon (yet another spec). No worries, as you know, there are many other alcoholic products which can use those aged (and bourbon soaked) barrels, such as for tequilla, wine, and commonly beer.
After the tour of the actual production of bourbon, we then moved into the Tasting Room, for some tasting of our own. Though I’m sure that it’s most visitors favorite part of the tour … I was a bit unsure. I tasted them all … OK, if you count a touch to the lips as a taste on that last (stronger) one. But as they say, bourbon is to be sipped, so safe to say I could have sipped that sampling all day long (to finish it, that is). 😉
Now, no trip to Maker’s Mark is ever complete without dipping your own bottle of Maker’s Mark, of course, the old fashioned way. See, a trademark of Maker’s Mark, is the red wax dip on each and every bottle they sell. So Mitchell had Tom dip one up for him! LOL. Tom just didn’t want to look up and as usual, took this so serious.
A real treat for me at Maker’s Mark was the beautiful glass artwork in the Visitor Center by Chihuly. So very colorful and quite interesting.
As we exited the building and walked towards our truck, I couldn’t help but see the sun peaking through the trees in the landscape.
We stayed the night at the Seelbach Hilton, which was quite a treat for us. In the basement of the building was The Rathskeller.
Quite beautiful in its own right. The perfect ending to the day. Well, that and dinner.
So, other than driving from Louisville to home, with a quick stop for some sleep and dinner with my amazing daughter Kelli, that was the end of our cross country cycling adventure for 2015. I hope that Tom enjoyed the “him” time and I hope that you enjoyed coming along for the ride too. 🙂
Next up: An encour return to the burrowing owls of South Florida.
© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography