Margaret Samuels

Photo of Margaret Samuels, provided by Maker’s Mark web site

Photo of Margaret Samuels, provided by Maker’s Mark web site

Margie: Marketing Mastermind

Margaret “Margie” Mattingly Samuels was born in 1916 in Bardstown, Kentucky. Margie 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 Louisville Girls High School and from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry in 1933. It was at the University of Louisville that Margie 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 home at the old Samuels’ residence in Bardstown, right next door to Colonel Jim and Mary Beam.

The flavor of Maker's Mark stood out, so co-founder Margie Samuels wanted to ensure the bottle stood out on the shelves as well. It is said that Margie is the reason most folks buy their first bottle of Maker's Mark and Bill, Sr is the reason they buy their second bottle. The shape of the bottle, look of the label, signature red wax topper and even the name itself are all thanks to Margie.

In 1953, Margie Samuels collaborated with her husband on a new kind of bourbon, using wheat in place of rye as the secondary “Flavoring grain.” She baked seven loaves of bread with a variety of alternative grains, and the whole family blind-tasted the breads and then Bill made the final decision for the soft red winter wheat.

Margie was a noted collector of fine English pewter, she 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 that she also designed. Finally, she designed the label and lettering that's now an internationally recognized Logo style.

Margie hand-dipped the first bottles in her kitchen using a home fryer to melt the wax. Margie's fried chicken was never quite the same, and neither was the whisky business. Her son, Bill Samuels Jr., said, "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 is just monumental."

Margie Samuels, passed away in 1985, she is also the father of longtime CEO Bill Samuels, Jr. and the grandmother of the distillery's current CEO, Chief Operating Officer, Rob Samuels.

In 2014 the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inducted Margaret “Margie” Mattingly Samuels as the first woman directly involved with a distillery, and only the fifth women ever to be inducted. Margie was the woman behind the red wax and the Maker’s Mark Logo so much more. At her induction ceremony it was stated, "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."