Maker’s Mark Maven Makes Bourbon Hall Of Fame

By Janet Patton
Lexington Herald-Leader.

The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame on Wednesday will induct Margie Mattingly Samuels, the woman behind the red wax and so much more at Maker’s Mark.

Samuels is the first woman directly connected with a distillery to get the honor, and only the fifth woman ever to be inducted.

“This is a historic moment that is long overdue,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, which announced the honor on Wednesday in conjunction with the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

“Mrs. Samuels was one of many women in our industry to be directly involved with creating and growing a legendary Bourbon brand. We are proud to honor Mrs. Samuels, and we applaud her monumental contributions that forever changed the way Bourbon is made and marketed. She transformed our industry, and we are eternally grateful.”

Her son, Bill Samuels, Jr., said, “As associate editor of my high school yearbook, I’ll never forget that day when I came home from school and all my things were sitting outside because Mom had thrown out my photo lab to set up a wax test kitchen in the basement. … I was so aggravated with her in that moment, but looking back 60 years, I know that what she accomplished compared to what I might have is just monumental.”

Margie Samuels, who died in 1985, also was the grandmother of the distillery’s current chief operating officer, Rob Samuels.

“Responsible for creating two of Kentucky’s most widely known symbols — the Maker’s Mark name and the bottle’s red wax — Marge made profound contributions to the Bourbon industry that live on 60 years later,” Rob Samuels said in a news release. “I am excited to continue upholding the standards she set forth for years to come.”

Marge Samuels was born into Kentucky’s signature Bourbon business. Her father’s family co-founded the Mattingly & Moore Distillery in Bardstown in the mid-1800s. She graduated at the top of her class from the Louisville Girls High School and the University of Louisville with a chemistry degree in 1933.

At U of L, she met Bill Samuels, Sr., a sixth-generation Kentucky distiller whose family owned and operated the T.W. Samuels Distillery. They married in 1937 and set up residence at the old Samuels home place on Whiskey Row in Bardstown, next door to Colonel Jim and Mary Beam.

In 1953, Marge Samuels collaborated with her husband on a new kind of bourbon using wheat in place of rye as the secondary grain. She baked bread with a variety of alternative grains, and Bill blind-tasted the bread and then made his decision for red winter wheat.

A noted collector of fine English pewter, Marge Samuels knew the “maker’s mark” was a symbol of handcrafted quality. She created the unique red wax that drips down the neck of the bottle she designed, as well as the label and lettering that’s now an internationally recognized type style.

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