Kentucky is bourbon country, and no one takes that more to heart than the people behind Maker’s Mark. Everything about their bourbon is steeped in rich history — from the name that was inspired by the “maker’s marks” that pewter whitesmiths put on their best work, to the signature red wax topper, to the square-shaped bottles reminiscent of 19th-century cognac bottles. Even the bourbon stands out among the stiff competition in the Bluegrass State, eschewing the traditional rye grain commonly used in bourbons for soft, red winter wheat, which delivers the delicate sweetness that Maker’s Mark is known for today. Their attention to detail and desire to stand out extends to every aspect of the distillery on Star Hill Farm, including the AV system. And what better way to stand out than with Connect Series amplifiers from LEA Professional.
The Maker’s Mark staff wanted to ensure their facilities reflect the world-class quality of the bourbon they produce. When retrofitting an employee break room next to the bottling lines, they contacted Alex Peake, Project Manager for JCA Media, to help equip the room’s AV system. “Their goal was to have background music playing all the time, except during meetings and presentations,” said Peake. “They wanted to be able to walk in, plug in their laptop, hit the presentation preset on the touchscreen, and go. Then hit a different preset at the end of the meeting to reset the room. And that’s exactly what we did.”
The background music system switches itself on before the day shift begins and shuts off late in the evening. Eight Martin ceiling loudspeakers were installed in the 30-foot by 60-foot break room, all driven by an LEA Connect Series 704. The 704 is a 4-channel amplifier with 700 watts per channel, perfectly suited for small to medium-scale installations. The 704 supports high-Z (70V or 100V) and low-Z selectable by channel, giving the distillery excess capabilities for possible future expansion.
With the success of the break room deployment, the distillery staff immediately pivoted to how they could improve the AV for both of the industrial bottling lines directly outside the break room. They wanted to break up the monotony of the repetitive machine sounds and make it more enjoyable for the employees who staff the area. They took advantage of the spare power that the 704 amplifier provided, powering each bottling line and the break room on separate channels, all of which is controlled by an Allen & Heath AHM-32 audio matrix processor.
The positive effect of the improved audio was contagious, resulting in the distillery staff asking JCA Media again to update an AV system, this time in the “innovation lab.” The innovation lab is a separate log cabin-esque building with red shutters the same color as the iconic red wax on their bottles. More than just a secretive area where the next generation of Maker’s Mark products are ideated and refined, the building also includes a VIP tasting area, patio, conference room and more. The original design called for a 4-channel LEA amplifier paired with another AHM-32. One amplifier channel would drive the tasting room while another fed the patio. The final two channels were used for the conference room: one for the ceiling loudspeakers and the other powered a subwoofer.
Peake added, “We were installing that and getting all up and running and they loved it so much, they said, “Okay, add audio to both the offices, the bathroom, and the kitchen. We just want background music everywhere.”
The JCA team swapped out the 4-channel amplifier for the aptly-named Connect Series 168 to support the new system requirements. Offering eight analog inputs, external I/O control for remote on/off and fault monitoring, and eight outputs at 160 watts per channel, the CS168 was more than capable of powering all aspects of the innovation lab.
The staff at Maker’s Mark was delighted with the installation and have plans for renovating other AV systems and new construction to meet the ever-increasing demands of their customers. What better way to spend a summer afternoon than sipping premium bourbon while listening to crystal-clear music in the beautiful rolling hills of Kentucky?