Near Loretto, Kentucky

Maker's Mark Distillery

Day 39: Thursday, September 20, 2001

Corn, Wheat, and Barley

These are the ingredients of good Kentucky bourbon whisky.
Whiskey distilling began as an easy way for grain farmers to ship their grain to market.
Large amounts of grain were distilled down to small amounts of whiskey and therefore were much easier to ship. And the distilled spirits were much more profitable.

The Copper Distillers

The Distilling Process

The making of bourbon whiskey is a strictly regulated process. There are several specifications required in order for a product to qualify for that designation. One is that it cannot be a blended product. Another is that it must be aged in new oak barrels. A product labeled bourbon cannot be aged in the same barrel as a previous batch.

Nothing but the best copper distillers will do for these prime ingredients.

Then the mixture goes into one of the fermenting vat pictured at left. The distillery was on its annual furlough, so the vats were empty and clean. But they were too deep to capture in one picture.

The next step is special: After it has been fermented, the mixture is put into aging barrels. These oak barrels are used only one time. If they are used more than that, the product cannot be labeled bourbon. Maker's Mark sells their once-used oaken barrels to the makers of Scotch Whiskey, so the barrels are not wasted.

Oaken Aging Barrels

Page last updated May 2, 2002.