See our Perryville, Loretto & Bardstown stops on a Google Map!
To The Islands
A Double Tribute
Spirit of Peoria
Interested in the Civil War? Read more about an excursion to the
Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library in Springfield, Illinois
Maker's Mark Distillery
Mon-Sat: 10:30am - 3:30pm
Sun: 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30pm
For more information visit:
Heaven Hill Distillery
Tue-Sat: 10am - 5pm
Sun: 12 - 4pm
For more information visit:
another dinner train in Stillwater, MN
Next morning dawned
bright and blue... the temperature however, hovered at a brisk 31 degrees
and a heavy frost covered my windshield; a pesky northeast wind did not help
matters. Even so, this was a far
better scenario than the last two days of downpours! The road to
Perryville was, to say the least, scenic (always pronounced "sken
ik" by my sister) as we wended our way west. As yet, I have
allowed it to remain unmentioned, but perhaps one of the most impressive
features I have seen -- at least in this part of Kentucky -- is the
limestone walls that grace both
sides alongside many of the roads... for
miles at a time. There is plenty of limestone in Kentucky, to be
sure. But keep in mind that all of these had to be erected by
hand. The amount of labor necessary is mind-boggling to say
the least. The resulting look and feel though, is stunning and impressive.
The ride to Perryville took only about an hour or so and the entire way was
one vista after another, the farms of Kentucky sprawling on either side of
the two-lane road. We soon reached the small town and followed the
signs to the site of the historic and bloody battle.
The bright sun and
green grass almost covered two things on this March day: the biting
wind with its resulting frigid chill, and the eerie sense that there were
screams and desperate cries that accompanied the roar of cannon and flash of
muskets still carrying across the valleys and gently sloping hills of the
Perryville battlefield today. There was even a group of ROTC cadets
that had camped the previous night and were reenacting a portion of the
battle. Cadets and instructor alike were wearing the Union Blue of the
federals; as they received the command to "fix bayonets", I felt a chill
run through me... and it definitely was not the cold of the March air. There are more
than seven miles of trails, marked with signs and explanations, and I would
have preferred to walk. But the wind and cold were more than I could
deal with, so we drove along a gravel road to reach the top of a hill with
several gun emplacements, where I read an account of what happened on
October 8th of 1862 at Perryville. I was appalled, especially at the
staggering loss of life: 13% of some 58,000 soldiers present.
Never having been
much interested in the Civil War, I thought that perhaps I would be unmoved
by the site, mostly empty but for the few old cannons and a small museum
where lots of memorabilia: swords, musket balls, mortar shells, doctors'
implements, flags, maps and much more were exhibited.
I couldn't have been more wrong. This is our history,
and it is as important as any you will ever encounter. For here is an
example of a disagreement in which we didn't just agree to disagree.
Brothers fought brothers... and we killed each other over a concept that, at
its best, is just innately wrong. By
some estimates, over
650,000 men lost their lives in the Civil War -- 2% of our entire population
at the time. As I left the battlefield, I couldn't help
but wonder about about that war and the time during which it was waged.
Over one hundred years later, we apparently still haven't learned how
foolish we can be.
And Perryville is a place that, like many other similar sites, is eying
development in the near future. I hope that Perryville says no.
It is definitely a place that you should surely visit soon... just in case
Perryville doesn't prevail. Read this article:
or Visit Perryville for an annual reenactment of the battle, and then see
how you feel about history and the Civil War:
Our last stop on the
trip was Bardstown, Kentucky. But just about twenty minutes to the south
of it -- and not far off our intended path -- was another land-mark (pardon the
pun...), and I just couldn't resist the temptation of a visit so I could
compare Maker's Mark
to the other distilleries which I had toured and bourbons I had sampled.
Located in Loretto, Kentucky (population about 650) on the banks of Hardin's
Creek, Marker's Mark is arguably one of the prettiest spots at which to
locate a distillery. Brown-painted buildings (to signify the amber
color of their bourbon) and red shutters (signifying the red wax seals on
the bottles) with cut-outs in the shape of a Marker's Mark bottle add to an
almost quaint setting that is immediately friendly and inviting. From
its humble beginnings as a grist mill/distillery in 1805, Maker's Mark is
proclaimed to be the oldest working bourbon distillery in the nation, also
receiving the distinction of being named a National Historic Landmark in
Whisky making has
been in the blood of the family since 1784, when Robert Samuels, a
Scottish-Irish Immigrant, arrived in Kentucky and started making Whisky --
mostly for himself and friends. In 1840, T. W. Samuels (Robert's
grandson) built a commercial distillery at Samuels Depot in Nelson County,
Kentucky and used a recipe that would be passed through six generations.
Somewhere in the late 1940's to early 1950's, Bill Samuels Sr. (Robertís
great, great, great grandson) decided to (1) reopen the distillery that had
been closed by Prohibition, (2) move it to Loretto, (3) produce a new and
distinguished bourbon and (4) set fire to the six-generation old family
recipe (the new version he discovered in the kitchen -- not the distillery
-- by baking bread using the gentler flavored red winter wheat instead of
rye). Bill's wife came up with the idea of placing a symbol -- a "mark
of the maker" -- on the bottle as a tribute to the excellence of the maker
and character of the new-recipe bourbon. And thus the name,
Maker's Mark, was born at the distillery of the same name in 1953.
The tour of the
facility was similar to others we had taken, but as is the case with all
bourbon distilleries, each has one or more twists in the process that set
them apart from competitors. Maker's Mark is no different.
Although they too use cypress wood fermenting barrels (originals with some
planks over 100 years old) and copper distilling apparatus, they use an old
style roller mill to crush the grain, they propagate their own yeast, use
limestone spring water from their own lake and -- from their own web site --
"red winter wheat
from specially selected small farm cooperatives, all of which are
located within the limestone geology near the distillery. This wheat
gives our whisky its soft, mellow taste."
Maker's Mark prides
itself on being a small distillery that makes small batch bourbon... totally
by hand. Even the bottle's label was originally penned by hand by
Bill's wife (an amateur calligrapher). At every step in the process,
it can truly be said that this bourbon is hand made, right down to
hand-dipping every bottle produced. And at the end of the tour, we
had the opportunity to sample the results of Bill's special recipe.
And I truly liked its mellow taste. So I bought a bottle in the gift
shop and hand-dipped it myself, sealing the top with the trade-mark red wax
found on all bottles of Maker's Mark.
There is another
distillery (Heaven Hill) not far away in Bardstown that one can tour.
Actually, there are many interesting
things to do and see in Bardstown and
the immediate surrounding area.
But it had been a very busy four days for us and our preference at this
point was to take some time to unwind and digest what we had seen and done.
We stopped briefly at the Old Talbott Tavern -- perhaps the oldest western
stagecoach stop in America -- and the Jailer's Inn Bed and Breakfast right
next door, part of which was still in operation as a jail... as recently as
1987! The Tavern supplied us with what was to be my last bourbon
"tasting" on our trip; the remainder of the day and evening proved
uneventful, as our scheduled dinner on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train fell far
short of our expectations. We retreated to the
Best Western General Nelson
in town and, as had been the case for the last several nights, fell quickly
The drive back to the
Chicago area seemed short; conversation turned repeatedly to our many stops
and event-filled days. I now know that I must return to Kentucky;
there is so much more to see and do. I wish to leave you all
with one final observation that was reinforced at every place we visited, at
every stop we made: Kentucky is without a doubt populated with some of
the nicest, most sincere, gracious and polite people anywhere I have ever
been. They are the main reason that I would go back at the drop of
a hat. My advice? Discover the beauty, excitement and
hospitality that are the distinctive trademarks of the great commonwealth of
Kentucky; plan your trip today.
Special Thanks to: