Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Burks Distillery

Burks Distillery
3350 Burks Spring Road
Marion County

Kentucky, USA - Active

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Burks distillery is where the iconic Maker's Mark bourbon is made. Alternate expressions are hard to find. Legend has it that the recipe of Maker's Mark, the mash bill, was not developed by actually malting and distilling the whiskey, but instead by baking a loaf of bread using the mash bill's proportions and sampling the results. Maker's Mark contains red winter wheat, corn and barley.

It is an atypical bourbon, although there are a lot of sweet, estery notes in the whiskey. There is less of that musty, papery tang, and more interesting flavours abound. Fruit, chocolate and honey abound, and I detect a lot of bananas and strawberries (although bourbon always tastes somewhat of banana anyway). There aren't a whole lot of expressions here - only three, and two might be expected to be fairly similar - so the variation is small. Nevertheless, it is deliciously sweet and fragrant, and quite satisfying. The widely available red wax expression is probably meant to be a cocktail ingredient, but stands up fairly well on its own.

All the Burks whiskies I have tasted so far are here.

Maker's 46 - good
Maker's Mark Select Black Wax - very good
Maker's Mark (original red wax) - good

Distillery history

Burks Distillery was founded in 1805 by, yes, you guessed it - Charles Burks. Charles died a couple of decades later, but the distillery continued to operate under the guidance of his family. George R Burks, a descendant of Charles, rebuilt and expanded the distillery in 1878.

Like the vast majority of American distilleries under Prohibition, this distillery was silent from 1920. The Burks family sold the distillery and the surrounding land to an Ernest Bickett in 1920. It is not known (at least not by me) when the distillery became active again, but T. William Samuels Jr (otherwise known as Bill) bought the distillery in 1954.

Bill created (or had access to the recipe for) Maker's Mark, and sold the first bottle in 1958. Sales have gone from strength to strength since.

Potted distillery facts

Water source: Water from Bourbon Lake, on the distillery property 
Washbacks: Four, cypress, unknown capacity 
Wash stills: One
Spirit stills: One
Spirit still Lyne arm: nothing unusual
Production per year: up to 12,000,000 litres a year

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