Celebrating trailblazing Women: Margie Samuels
Introducing Margie Samuels, the woman who made Maker’s Mark what it is today.
In 2014, Margie was the first woman connected to a distillery to be inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. In the news release, KDA President Eric Gregory called the selection of Margie Samuels “a historic moment that is long overdue.”
“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 honour 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.”
Margie is often referred to as the co-founder of Maker’s Mark along with her husband, T.W. “Bill” Samuels Sr. While Bill oversaw the whisky’s production in the early 1950’s, she created the brand. The name, the bottle, the label, and the dripping wax seal allowed Maker’s Mark to stand out like a red dress when placed on a bar or store shelf. She said:
“My aim was to bring good taste to tastes good”.
The flavour of Maker’s Mark, derived from soft, red winter wheat which replaces the hot bite of rye with a delicate, unique spice, stood out from the crowd and co-founder Margie Samuels wanted to ensure the bottle did the same. The story goes that one evening in 1957, Margie Samuels proudly displayed a bourbon bottle to her husband and three children. It had been dipped in thick, bright red wax, and had dried after dripping down the bottle’s neck.
The cream-coloured label was hand-torn and carefully centred. She declared this bottle design to be the future of Maker’s Mark. Bill pushed back, suggesting that the design would be hard to scale. Margie played her trump card to win the argument: Margie finished first in their class at the University of Louisville, and Bill Sr. finished last.
Her influence is still felt by the wider Bourbon industry. She oversaw the development of the distillery, ensuring that her vision for a visitor-friendly operation, which continues to this day, was realised. Margie even made Bill, Sr. agree that for every dollar that was put into the bourbon, another would go into restoring the distillery's buildings and grounds. The opening up of the distillery to the public proved a revelation, and it planted the first seed for the creation of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, providing much needed tourism to the local area.
To find out more about this remarkable woman and her influence on the Maker’s Mark brand, head here or check out our Instagram and Facebook to see which other trailblazing women we’ve been talking about.