Part 3 of 3, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, everything about bourbon here. At the Maker's Mark distillery, giant vats of fermenting mash.
The distillery is much more polished and art directed than Jim Beam--rather than a raw, bare pipes factory it's a a series of carefully preserved and judiciously updated barn-style buildings with red shutters that echo the trademark red wax on the Maker's bottles.
The waxing station. The writers on the press trip were all taught how to do the dip on our own bottles that we were able to take with us, a souvenir I'd planned to keep forever. That was September, my bottle made it to December.
Cask upon cask of beautiful Maker's Mark, in the storage barn.
Later the same night...The Bourbon Ball is the culmination of the week of parties and tours, a giant party held in a giant hall with booth after booth of bourbon makers pouring cocktails (and naturally neat bourbon) in glasses with their insignias--you're given a cloth bag to collect the glasses in, and when you retire to a giant tent for dining, dancing, heavy socializing and really heroic bourbon consumption, you check the bag to retrieve post-ball. A bag full of clanking glasses wouldn't survive long at the party. Suits and more than few kilts for the men, ball gowns and pageant hair for the women. There's a very dynastic air to the whole proceedings--most all the families that make bourbon are there, and it's a very distinct iteration of the royal ball. You're knee deep in Kentucky aristocracy there, and the fact that it's all centered around bourbon makes it considerably more amiable and interesting than the equivalent group in, say, Newport. I'd take Bourbon Fest over the Kentucky Derby everytime--it's a more authentic expression of the culture, and bourbon, obviously, is more important that horse racing and funny hats.