wagon at maker's mark distillery in Kentucky

Day 89 – From Bluegrass to Pennyroyal in Kentucky

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Day 89 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

I awoke to the wind swirling, snow falling, and a phone call from my Louisville hosts.  They are stuck in St.  Louis. No house for me this evening!  OK, I got a little flustered.  Countless thoughts spun through my mind.  Could I drive the roads? Could I survive the 5 degree temperature? Should I stay south and wait out the storm at Walmart?  Should I go northeast to Lexington in hopes it would hit there later or should I book it to Louisville, Kentucky and email one of my blog readers who I’ve never met and try to stay with her?

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historic Park

I opted for the latter, sent an email to Connie, and started north rather quickly. If I were going to be stranded in the weather, I wanted to be in a larger city and have a chance for a roof over my head.  In slight panic mode and after skipping several stops, I realized the roads were fine.  The snow wasn’t sticking yet, so tomorrow will likely be the nasty day.  Consequently, I took a deep breath and enjoyed what I could find in the area. I made my first stop at Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historic Park.

abraham lincolns birthplace national historic site in Kentucky

A giant granite and marble monument stood in front of me as I pulled into the parking lot.  In the warmth of VANilla, I surveyed the park through the falling snow.  I didn’t spot the log cabin in which Abraham Lincoln was presumed to be born in 1809.  I wasn’t sold on trouncing through the snow in my tennis shoes to look for it either. 

As a result, the mutts and I took the steps leading up to the memorial where we found the log cabin inside!  A ranger stood guard.  He said, while the location is the birthplace of Lincoln, the cabin originally thought to be the home in which Lincoln was born, was determined to be built in the 1840s; thus too new.

Bardstown, Kentucky

We continued farther north to Bardstown, Kentucky which seemed like the mid-point between Lexington and Louisville, though slightly south.  The dogs and I briefly stopped at a plantation house that inspired Stephen Foster to write “My Old Kentucky Home”.  It looked like a long walk to the house in the snow, and it required a guided tour, so we didn’t stay.  The mansion is said to have ceilings 13 feet high, brick walls 13 inches thick, and each flight of stairs includes 13 steps as a tribute to the original 13 colonies.  Perhaps I’ll have to visit on a better day.

With the roads still passable and not yet having heard from Connie, I headed east toward Lexington.  Having spent two weeks of each summer at the Lexington Horse Park as a teenager, I figured I could find my way around horse country.  The idea of return to DeSha’s for dinner and their cornbread after a 20 year hiatus floated through my head. 

Maker’s Mark Distillery

On the way, I stopped in Springfield at the Maker’s Mark Distillery.  Gina, my GPS, guided me along back country roads past hay fields and farmhouses blanketed in snow.  After 20 minutes of winding around snowy curves and through Kentucky’s bluegrass hills, I began to feel a bit anxious. I had yet to see a sign to the distillery.  Furthermore, I was concerned I might end up on a snow covered hill that VANilla couldn’t maneuver.  Then I spotted steam rising above a red-shuttered, black building.  I had made it.

The free tour took us through the stillhouse, the bottling factory, and the storage barn.  The stillhouse includes a rollermill to grind the corn, red-winter wheat instead of rye, and barley; a giant cooker to bake the mix; cypress vats for fermentation; and copper stills for the white dog.  The distillery, strategically located next to a spring, uses the naturally filtered waters in its bourbon.

Maker’s Mark still utilizes “hand-made” processes versus automated processes in certain instances.  Each bottle is dipped by hand into red wax and each barrel is moved by hand as opposed to by forklift as it is believed the sloshing created when moving the barrels by hand adds to the distinct flavor. 

The bourbon is not aged for a specified amount of time before it is bottled, it is aged to taste.  A nineteen member tasting panel must unanimously agree the bourbon consists of the Maker’s Mark flavor before it is shipped for sale.  If the panel doesn’t agree, the bourbon is aged for a longer period when it is tasted again.  If the panel is still not in agreement, a four person panel decides.

Recently, Maker’s Mark unveiled a new, smoother bourbon called 46 for the 46th attempt in which they attained the smoky, smooth flavor they wanted.  46 is the original brand poured into a different barrel including additional wood slats fastened inside the barrel.  I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, but the tasting was quite enjoyable, and the bourbon chocolates were divine! 

I even bought a bottle, and donning safety googles, gloves, and protective sleeves, I dipped it in the hot wax.  After the tour, I can understand why a soccer teammate, Eric, is a Maker’s Mark connoisseur.  He should be on the panel!

Connie’s House

Upon leaving the tour, Connie called.  I had a place to stay in Louisville.  They were my heroes!  While I was slightly closer to Lexington, I ditched my plans and headed west just as the roads began icing up.  I can’t imagine how cold it would have been in VANilla.  We arrived to Connie’s with soup on the stove…how great. 

It was so nice of Connie and Ron to offer up their house for the evening.  Connie and Ron, married for five years, met at church.  He works third shift at a molding factory that makes a variety of parts for cars.  Connie recently retired from the claims department at Blue Cross Blue Shield.  She was busy wrapping Christmas presents!  I haven’t wrapped one…and haven’t even bought them all.  I’ll be busy on the 23rd! ETB

ron and connie in louisville, kentucky

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

Other Posts About Kentucky You May Like

Day 90 – Bluegrass to Pennyroyal in Kentucky (Part 2)

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Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop.  Each card has a travel story associated with it.  20% of proceeds are donated to charity.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

7 thoughts on “Day 89 – From Bluegrass to Pennyroyal in Kentucky

  1. Love the Makers Mark wagon! And you in your goggles!
    That’s a great photo of the hawk! Hope she enjoyed her lunch!

    Thank you, thank you Connie and Ron for sharing your home with Beth!

    xo’s

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