Taking place in the Copper Mill, a handsome industrial house in Alexandria, Sydney, the ‘Meet the Maker’ event by Maker’s Mark takes guests through four rooms, each focusing on one of the four Ws that go into making the bourbon, namely wheat, water, wood and wax.
In the first space, attendees learn the importance of wheat to the finished product, especially as Maker’s Mark is unusual in that it uses no rye. Will Peterson from famed Sydney sourdough merchants Infinity Bakery also guides participants through customising a focaccia with condiments like rosemary sprigs, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and herbs.
The water component includes some spectacular works in ice by master sculptor Kenji and guests have the opportunity to put the famous Maker’s Mark stamp on a block of ice. It’s easy enough to make a satisfyingly neat imprint on your own slippery ice block, but it takes years of hard graft to get on Kenji’s level; the man once sculpted a life-size Luke Skywalker in a competition. He was given three hours to complete the masterwork, but he knocked out the young Jedi with an hour to spare.
There is also the opportunity to learn about the charred wooden barrels that give the finished liquid much of its distinctive colour and flavor. Cooperage, the art of making the barrels, is a fascinating and little understood part of the process of making whiskeys and bourbons and guests will lap up the rich, smoky scent of the charred barrels.
Cooperage, the art of making the barrels, is a fascinating and little understood part of the process of making whiskeys.
The tour also gives guests an opportunity to make the definitive version of an Old Fashioned, one of the most simple but perfect cocktails imaginable. It wraps up with a small feast featuring a variety of cheeses, crackers, figs and cured meats. Remember the focaccia you personalised back in the wheat room? You get to taste the finished product of your handiwork here, gloriously risen after a spell in the oven.
One of the distinctive things about Maker’s Mark is that every bottle has a handmade red wax seal. At the distiller’s idyllic base in Kentucky, an all-woman assembly line works to dip each bottle in the hot wax. In the fourth industrial age, such a painstaking process is a complete anomaly.
A newspaper once described it as “purposeful inefficiency” and the distillery wears that as a badge of honour; painstaking and imperfect as the process may be, it means the makers are more intimately involved with the product and that no two bottles are quite the same.
Guests come away from the event appreciating the process that goes into making the iconic liquid. It makes the case that Maker’s Mark is something like the ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ of the liquor world, a brilliant artefact that is easily taken for granted because of its sheer ubiquity.