So much has happened since Kingsport Oktoberfest. Originally I thought I’d try to post everything that happened in the last month or 2, but after 2 days of writing this, I I decided to keep it mainly about my Bourboncation.
September 21st and 22nd I hit the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. Specifically I headed to Loretto, KY for Maker’s Mark. I’ve been a member of the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program since 2005. They put my name on a barrel and sent me periodic updates on where the barrel was in the warehouse and how it was coming along. They also send me cool gifts from time to time. I have been wanting to visit the distillery forever. Finally I got a letter in the mail with a golden ticket telling me that my barrel was done aging and bottles were available for purchase between March and the end of September. So I planned a quick trip. The idea was to drive up for the day, visit the Maker’s Mark Distillery and either drive back or find a hotel for the evening. I got a late start on Saturday and arrived at Maker’s Mark just in time for one of the last tours of the day. It was a pretty drive, but I had moments of worry on the way that we weren’t in the right place. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but back country roads and horse farms in that part of Kentucky.
The distillery grounds are absolutely beautiful. The distillery itself has a long and rich history. I walked the ground listening to the stories told by the tour guide. When it comes to Bourbon, Maker’s Mark has always been one of my favorite brands and while there I learned why it’s so smooth. The grain bill is massively different from most bourbons where instead of rye, they use red wheat. This takes away the the astringency that rye produces. They also still mash and distill using traditional methods.
The tour is fun and informative and I highly recommend going when you get a chance. Everyone’s favorite part is when they let you sample some bourbon. The tour ends at the gift shop where they sell bottles and all kinds of great souvenirs. Since I am an ambassador, I got to hand dip 2 bottles from my barrel into Maker’s Mark trademark red wax. They even printed custom labels for my bottles. I am excited that I bought 4 long charred oak barrel staves that they used to condition my favorite brand, Maker’s 46. These still smell like bourbon. I plan on sanitizing them and using them to flavor the next big batch of imperial stout that we brew. Here are some pictures and videos from Maker’s Mark. Click on the circles to enlarge.
As I was speaking with the various employees and other people I met on the tour, a question that I was frequently asked was “Are you in town for the Bourbon Festival?” Apparently I came on the right weekend because right up the road in Bardstown, KY was the yearly Bourbon Fest. I just knew that I had to go check this out. I left Maker’s Mark and drove the half hour up. Arriving and finding a great free parking spot, I walked around. This was definitely a family friendly event. The free part had many booths set up and temporary gift shops from many of Kentucky’s distilleries. There was a classic car show and typical street fair food. For $3 you could buy a pin which gave you access to the adult’s only bourbon drinking area. To get drinks you had to purchase tickets. They were pricey, which I thought would limit me to how many drinks I’d imbibe. Was I wrong about that! I immediately made friends with a couple of guys working the bourbon flight booth by going and getting beer for them. They hooked me up repeatedly with free booze. After a few really good mixed drinks which I don’t recall the name of, I met a couple from Knoxville. I met Spencer and Meggers when they walked by and I noticed Spencer’s UT shirt. I simply said “Go Vols!” and the next thing I know, I’m hanging out with them talking about Knoxville, football and getting drunk. Spencer kept purchasing rounds which I gladly accepted. After awhile of pacing myself, it was time to go. At that point in the fest, it had become a drunken shit show and I really wanted to get to the hotel. I thanked Spencer and Meggers and walked to the car and headed out to find my hotel room.
The next morning I woke up and headed out. I wanted to go visit Four Roses Distillery since it wasn’t too far away. I arrived just in time for the last tour of the day. I sat and watched a presentation about the distillery before the tour group walked the grounds. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of this brand but still had an enjoyable time. The best part is that at the end, I got to try several of their sub-brands. Here’s some pictures from the distillery.
After the tour It was time for the long drive back to Knoxville. Unfortunately due to timing and the fact that the distilleries are spread out all over the state, I didn’t get a chance to visit any others. I really wanted to go to Buffalo Trace which distills some award winning brands such as Elmer T. Lee, Pappy Van Winkle and a personal favorite, Eagle Rare. I do plan on visiting in the future.
Being that Lexington was on the way home, and I didn’t want to trip to be over, I thought I’d stop a few places. I drove over to Liquor Barn. I had heard that they had a great selection of craft beers. They did have some goodies there, but I didn’t buy much. I did take home a Mexican craft beer IPA, but after trying it, it tasted like it had been on the shelf for too long. The next spot I hit was the world famous Beer Trappe. This place is known for the great selection and was voted one of the top 100 beer bars in the country. It’s somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. I ordered a flight of beer to sip on while I checked out the great bottle selection. I found a few treats that I had been wanting to try, and added them to my cart. After picking out beer, I settled back up to the bar to talk to the owner and some locals about their beer scene. I asked which local breweries that they’d recommend. I only had time to visit one, so I settled on Country Boy, just a short drive away.
I knew I couldn’t stay long at Country Boy. I was tired from all the drinking and traveling over the weekend and wanted to get home. I stayed long enough to enjoy a flight of 4 samples. I like the atmosphere at Country Boy and look forward to going back when I have more time. I also regret that I didn’t have time to check out West Sixth Brewing while in town.
I finally arrived back in Knoxville around dark. I was tired but happy to have had a great trip. I really look forward to hitting the places I missed up in Kentucky. Maybe another Bourboncation is called for in the spring.
This is all for now. I have a lot more to write about and will start working on my next update right away. After all, I still have Kingsport Oktoberfest, Knoxville Brewer’s Jam, a side trip to Asheville, an update on the brewery, an update about our seasonal homebrews, Louis K’s Blues and Bar-B-Que hootenany, and much more to tell y’all about. So check back and until then drink well my friends.