From my first taste of Maker’s Mark Whisky, I loved everything about it. I loved the distinctive sour mash taste (from red winter wheat and no rye), the square-shaped wax-dipped bottle, and the name “whisky” without the “e” (a spelling usually reserved for Scottish whisky).
On our many motorhome trips, we had toured distilleries before, from Lynchburg, Tennessee, to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but none was more rewarding or harder to reach than Maker’s Mark near Loretto, Kentucky.
When we left out of Lexington, I put the address for the distillery in my GPS and touched “GO”. Away we went, heading west out US 60 to the merge with Martha Layne Collins Blue Grass Parkway. At some point after a left turn onto a US highway, and a right turn onto a Kentucky State highway, we found ourselves on a stretch of paved road, the last five miles of which was only one lane wide — with no shoulder. We were in a 36-foot, diesel-pusher motorhome, towing a vehicle behind.
We held our breath for five miles, hoping we wouldn’t meet another car because there would have been no place for either of us to yield. Finally, at what was to have been our destination according to the GPS, we came to a stop sign at a T-intersection. With directions from a man retrieving his mail at the corner mailboxes, we circled around a large hill and through the town of Loretto where the Maker’s Mark distillery came into view. As we drove through the entrance, a group was gathering outside the visitor center for the next guided tour. With my window down, I overheard one man say: “How the hell did they get that thing in here”?
Thankfully we did, because the tour was impressive, conducted by a lady with a passion for the history, the product and the process. She described, in detail, how ingredients were selected, and how this small-batch masterpiece was brewed. The biggest thrill for me came at the end of the tour when we were given the opportunity to dip our own bottle. In groups of a half-dozen or so, we donned rubber aprons and large rubber gloves with sufficient gauntlets to protect our wrists. Being second in line, I had the advantage of watching the first person struggle with his bottle and make a mess.
Following instructions from our guide, I grasped the bottle firmly by the bottom with my right hand, supporting the neck with my left hand. I turned toward the vat of hot wax and, with a smooth, continuous motion, dipped two inches of the neck of the bottle into the wax, and slowly turned the bottle upright. The wax ran like molasses down the neck of the bottle and stopped, forming a perfect and distinct pattern. Success!
The inscription on the side of my bottle reads, in part: “This Special Edition Bottle was dipped by Jerry Schmidt on 10-14-06 at the Maker’s Mark Distillery on Star Hill Farm near Loretto, Kentucky.” Although the whisky from my personally-dipped bottle is long gone, I treasure the keepsake to this day.