Are you a Maker's Mark Ambassador or hoping to be? Here's what to expect, as well as what a tour is like at this bourbon distillery!
Seven years ago, we signed up for the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program.
They put your name on a barrel, and then after years go by, they let you know when your barrel is ready to bottle! And you get first dibs on buying the bourbon from your barrel.
More recently, the ambassador program switched to an invite-only system. To get a chance at an invite, sign up for their email list.
After seven years, we got a golden ticket (yes, a literal golden ticket) in the mail. Our barrel was ready!
We visited for a Golden Ticket/Ambassador tour. The tour itself was similar to the standard tour, but with a slightly smaller group.
There are many destinations on Kentucky's famous Bourbon Trail! Here's a guide to the original distilleries. Newer places like Bardstown Bourbon Company and Lux Row offer great tours too. And on the "Craft Tour" you can find operations like Whiskey Thief, James E. Pepper, and Log Still.
What to Expect on a Maker’s Mark Tour
Maker's Mark is located on gorgeous grounds in the Kentucky countryside.
You’ll find artists' works all around, such as the mosaics in the visitor center restroom area.
Glass artist Dale Chihuly has several stunning installations in the visitor center, in the ceiling above the barrels, and elsewhere on the grounds.
For the tour, we started at the visitor center, and then walked to the distillery to see some of the stills and their cooker/fermenting vats.
We went through the printing press area, and got a souvenir bottle label.
Next, we spent some time in a rickhouse. It smells so good in there! The smell is a combination of wood and evaporating bourbon (the "angels' share").
We visited a temperature-controlled limestone cellar built just for Maker's Mark "46" line, which adds seared French oak staves to the barrels and needs extra time to age.
This cave-like cellar ensures cool storage year-round.
Finally, we went to the bottling plant.
At the end of the tour is what we all had been waiting for: the tasting! Our samples included traditional Maker's Mark, the 46, traditional at cask strength, the 46 at cask strength, and one of their specialty bourbons.
Back at the gift shop, you can purchase a bottle of Maker’s Mark and dip the bottle in their signature red wax. We did this and it was pretty fun!
If you want something to eat before you leave, the Star Hill Provisions café is a nice stop for snacks or a meal.
They’re not always open, and sometimes they run on a limited menu, so check out the website if you're planning on food — and maybe have snacks in the car as a backup.
Star Hill also has a few signature cocktails (like a bourbon slushy and the Bardstown brulot, which features a cold brew concentrate, orange liqueur, and condensed milk).
Also, if there’s a specialty Maker’s Mark bourbon that you want to try, you can do that here.
Another food option we like is Rosewood Bar & Grill, located at a golf club about 15 minutes away.
Whether you're a Maker's Mark Ambassador or just excited about touring, this beautiful facility is worth the trip!