About seven years ago, my husband joined the Maker’s Mark Ambassadors club. In that club, you get your name on a barrel of whiskey in the hopes that when it is ready, you will come and buy some out of that barrel. They send you Christmas presents every year and let you know periodically how your bourbon is aging.
Well, seven years passed and in December we got the invitation stating that Brandon’s barrel was ready! We quickly looked at our calendar to see when we could go to Bourbon Country to get our own, personal Maker’s Mark and spring break was the ticket. We packed up the dog boys (Piggy and Stan) and headed to Anderson, S.C. where we would visit Brandon’s mom and the boys would get to have some grandma time. (Another post on Anderson later)
On a Thursday, we headed out of Anderson toward Knoxville, Tennessee. Here, we planned to stop for lunch in the downtown area. We decided on The Stock and Barrel, a burger/beer/bourbon place on Market Square. The Stock and Barrel is a farm-to-table type restaurant where the burgers are made with fresh beef and topped with the likes of delicious blue cheese, Benton’s Bacon and other locally sourced ingredients. The inside of the place is rich with wooden floors and tables with steel chairs. I ordered the Classic Bacon Burger and it was probably one of the best burgers I have had.
After a quick lunch, we headed out to our final destination of Bardstown, Kentucky. This is the mecca of bourbon with multiple distilleries within a few miles radius from the downtown. We checked into our hotel, the Hampton Inn, (which I highly recommend) and, despite the rain, we headed out to Downtown. We had dinner reservations at the oldest tavern in the area called Talbott Tavern. Next door to Talbott is the Bourbon Bar where I enjoyed a flight of different bourbons from the area. The restaurant’s history is quite amazing and the food is good, but the night we were there, the service was very lacking.
After dinner, we wandered the streets of Bardstown, but it was well past the close of business so there wasn’t much for us to see.
Friday started out with more rain (Kentucky is very rainy in the spring), but, as usual, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the sites. We started at the Barton 1792 Distillery where at 9 a.m. they will still give you a tour and a sample of their bourbon. After that, we headed to Maker’s Mark Distillery, about 30 minutes outside of Bardstown. The distillery was built on a river because of the quality of water. However, to get there you have to travel on back country and very winding roads. The drive there is absolutely beautiful with the rolling hills and farmland, but in the rain, it can be treacherous. We arrived at Maker’s Mark around 10:30 a.m. and Brandon was greeted with an ambassador’s pin and a warm welcome. Our tour started at 11 a.m. with a group of others in the main house. From there, again in the rain, we toured the entire distillery learning how the delicious beverage of bourbon is made and how it goes from the field to the glass. Probably the best part of the tour was tasting a variety of bourbons made on site. The second best part was buying four bottles of bourbon from Brandon’s barrel. There, of course, is a large store on site and you even get dip your purchase in the signature red wax. I personally really enjoyed this tour. It was very informative and the tour guides and staff were spectacular. It also helps that Maker’s Mark is one of my favorite bourbons.
After our tour, we headed to another distillery called Heaven Hill which is more toward Bardstown than Loretto. We peeked at the gift shop, but decided against a tour and tasting. Just down the street and up a large hill is the Willett Distillery. This distillery is located on some of the most beautiful Kentucky land around….and the bourbon is fantastic! We took the usual tour, which was similar to the Maker’s Mark one, and enjoyed our tasting of their brands of bourbon. If you aren’t going to do Maker’s Mark, I would highly recommend the Willett Distillery tour. The staff is very personable, the bourbon is delicious and the land is beautiful. After this tour, we made our way through a tornado warning to Nashville. Stay tuned!