It all starts with Bourbon. At least it does when you go for a visit to Kentucky. Cities like Lexington and Louisville flaunt the reference to the popular brown spirit everywhere from billboards to airport trinkets. One of the leaders in the spirit category, Maker’s Mark, has been distilling some of the state’s most popular Bourbon since the 1950s.
As distillery maturation specialist Jane Bowie shares, the company is still producing the same consistent Bourbon it did in the 50s when Bill Samuel Sr. and his wife started the company. Or should we stay restarted the company. Unsatisfied with the product they had been making under a different name, they rebranded and recreated the spirit into Maker’s Mark. Bill’s wife even came up with the logo and distinctive bottle design. There were some basic principles outlined during that process that each bottled made has to follow: they did not want a product with the “Bourbon bite,” that burn that hits the mouth at first sip of some brands; they wanted a product that you could drink easily; and they wanted something full of flavor. This has been the company’s guiding mantra all these years and every single day while distilling.
Bill Samuel Jr. wanted to make his mark and created the Maker’s 46, a remake the classic. And now Rob Samuel continues the legacy with the recent launch of Maker’s Private Select. The select program allows companies to come and select the staves of wood to use to create the final taste of the Bourbon. There are over 1,001 possible combinations of five different types of wood staves which can make for a difficult task. These bottles can now be found in certain markets in Kentucky and Illinois including in several Marriott Hotels. Marriott was the first hotel brand to ever purchase and sell Maker’s Mark so it was a natural partnership with the new select program.
Marriott Hotels has also launched a newly elevated beverage program in over 250 hotels in the U.S. and other countries. Recognizing the need for their guests yearning for a more elevated experience, they can now learn more and taste more at those properties part of the beverage program. This includes the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa in Lexington who not only has an extensive Bourbon list, they also have created their own Maker’s Private Select using four baked American staves, four roasted French mocha staves and two toasted French spice staves.
The Keeneland Experience
Another signature experience Kentucky is known for is horse riding, horse tracks, and horse farms. There are miles and miles of them on any drive around the state, each with precious picket fences and acres of property for the animals to roam.
Most people think of Churchill Downs when they think of the popular sport, but Keeneland is where the thoroughbreds all come to train. The pristine manicured facility was also the first company to ever buy a case of Maker’s Mark, so it is natural the two have a long standing relationship. Maker’s is a large corporate supporter of the organization and the two create special limited edition bottles quite often. There is a display case in the lower areas that showcase the bottles and you can get a glass of their own Maker’s Private Select at almost any bar.
Traveling Bourbon Battles
Now for those who cannot make the trek to Kentucky, and want to get their fill of Bourbon have the chance at one of the five-city tours being organized by Marriott Hotels. Bourbon Battles is a traveling event with a mission is to crown the ultimate Bourbon cocktail craftsman. At the first stop in Lexington, four area bartenders battled it out in front of a lively audience to take on the win. The tour will continue to locations in Portland, Calgary, and Boston before culminating in New York City on National Bourbon Day on June 14. Winners from each of the stops will come and compete in New York and one will be crowned the winner of Bourbon Battles. The winner receives a trip and tickets to the annual Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this summer. The campaign is part of the Marriott Hotels Bourbon Program and was selected not only because of Bourbon’s popularity but because of the rich history and stories of the spirit. Marker’s Mark and Brown Forman are partners in the multi-city competition. Griffin Gate Marriott’s very own bartender, Ashley Sherrow, won the first battle in Lexington.
In the past decade, there has been nearly a 40 percent growth in sales of Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey in the United States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Tapping into this trend, Marriott Hotels’ Bourbon Program features world-renowned spirits brands, such as Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek, signature cocktails and locally curated flights at Marriott Greatroom lobby bars in over 250 properties.
Marriott Hotels Bourbon Battles Schedule:
May 12 – Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront
May 19 – Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel
May 25 – Boston Marriott Long Wharf
June 14 – New York Marriott at The Brooklyn Bridge
To see the action in real time, follow #BourbonBattles. For more information, visit their website.
FTC Disclosure: Parts of this trip were sponsored. Opinions herein belong to the author.