The signature red wax which adorns every bottle of Maker’s Mark will travel from Kentucky, alongside some 60 cases of the liquor, to the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off in late August for a one-of-a-kind display in Rib Village. Each “naked bottle” of Maker’s Mark will be hand-dipped in the wax and made to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Rib Cook-Off, according to the Nugget’s Manager of Beverage Operations Robert Kidd, who recently returned from the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Ky.
“Thinking about the Samuels family,” Kidd said Wednesday afternoon, “And all the history they have there, that is one of the reasons we thought it was such a perfect fit for the Nugget because of the Ascuaga family and all the history they have here. Couple that with the 25 years the Rib Cook-Off has been in place and I think the fit is perfect, and we all felt that from Michonne (Ascuaga, CEO) all the way down.”
Kidd referred to the red wax dipping as the distillery’s “fingerprint” left on each bottle, which does not leave the assembly line until it has been touched by human hands. Nugget Special Events Manager Lisa Jansen initially approached Kidd about crafting a commemorative bottle, and when the Nugget Rib Cook-Off team returned from Kentucky, it knew the match was right.
“The thing I found amazing was the quality and care that goes into each bottle,” Jansen said. “You see manufacturing on TV and you picture massive amounts of products, and they (Maker’s Mark) really touch every single bottle. It is amazing to me. They really did care so much about their work and they were really focused on the product.”
The wax dipping demonstration will take place during an undetermined amount of nights in Rib Village and during special VIP events held at the Nugget, beginning August 28. The Nugget team does not believe there will be enough bottles or wax to last until the end of the Rib Cook-Off on September 2, but while supplies last Jansen and Kidd agree it is a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“We have seen some of the commemorative bottles and they are very proud of their heritage in Kentucky,” Kidd said. “They support the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Derby. They have done it in the past, but they do very little of these special bottles outside of Kentucky.”
Maker’s Mark has patented and kept their secrets concerning the wax dipping process and Jansen said it is “rare to see them doing it in Nevada or anywhere outside of Kentucky.” She said the Nugget will announce on Facebook the dipping demonstrations that will take place outside of Rib Village in the near future.
The Nugget’s partnership with Maker’s Mark has given Kidd plenty of insight to the inner workings of the company, which he believes will leave the Nugget as one of the only sellers of the Kentucky bourbon whiskey down the road.
“Maker’s Mark, with the popularity and the boom of brown spirits as a whole, will have a shortage,” Kidd said. “They have been shortening different regions around the world now, including Reno. I can pretty much guarantee that every store around the region will be out of Maker’s Mark this year because I have already seen those shortages.
“They have been expanding and the whiskey making process and aging takes up to seven years for them specifically, and back five or seven years ago they didn’t anticipate this type of boom. So the new demand has completely outpaced their production. We have been shorted and it is likely that sometime this year we will be the only place in northern Nevada to buy Maker’s Mark.”
With about 40 days remaining until the 25th anniversary of the Nugget Rib Cook-Off, plans continue to be rolled out as the Nugget announced the entertainment lineup for the six-day event in Victorian Square. More than 40 bands will play on multiple stages and the main stage will feature acts such as Diego’s Umbrella, Keller Williams, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Mark Chesnutt, Bad Company with Brian Howe and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.
The Nugget will announce the competing rib cookers, various vendors and special events in the coming weeks. For the most up-to-date information, visit www.facebook.com/janugget.