I have been to Maker's Mark twice before this time, and my first surprise when we arrived is that the tour is no longer free. It now costs $9 per person. When I asked the sales clerk about this, she said that they started charging admission about 2 1/2 years ago, and she explained that the tour is now "enhanced." Apparently, the "enhancements" are the taste test near the end of the tour and the new, larger gift shop.
The tour gives the visitor a close, hands on look at a working distillery. Our tour guide, Courtney, was knowledgeable about the history of the distillery and about how Maker's Mark is made. The bottling line is usually at the end of the tour, but she explained that they sometimes shut it down for the day early, so she was taking us to the bottling line first. This was thoughtful and considerate of the 30 or so paying customers on the tour. We next went to the distilling area, where the unfinished product is stored in huge, silo-sized wooden vats while it ferments. We got to taste the fermenting product, which tasted a lot like watery oatmeal.
Next, we went to a warehouse where the oak barrels are stored for the aging process. Our guide, again, was knowledgeable and clearly explained to us how Makers Mark and Makers Mark 46 are aged. After that, we went to the tasting room, where our guide had us smell and taste 4 different samples and facilitated a discussion about each. She was a little bit rough on one hapless tour customer who dared to say that the Maker's Mark sample was "harsh." I know it caught her off guard and even ticked her off a little bit to have someone dis the product they sell, but gezz! It is a free country and the guy is entitled to his opinion. Especially after he paid $9 admission to the tour. I suspect that she made the guy wish he hadn't even come on the tour.
Finally, the tour came to an end as all tours do: in the gift shop. The merchandise in the shop, which includes Maker's Mark and all manner of products emblazoned with Maker's Mark logo, is a tad pricey.
It was a fun afternoon and my wife and I enjoyed the tour. But Loretto is off the beaten path, and with the tour no longer free, we won't be going there again soon.
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