Jump to content

A Mark on the Maker...

This topic has been inactive for at least 365 days, and is now closed. Please feel free to start a new thread on the subject! 

Recommended Posts

I have read, in the past, where members will say that this is my favorite bourbon and that is my favorite bourbon...Then, make a really sweet note, to me, in concern as not to hurt my feelings...I do appreciate that...but to be honest it does not bother me one bit...Matter of fact..I'm usually grinnin...Fact bein...it seems that "on the top coat" you are actually picking another brand but when you look deep inside the "backbone" of most every distillery in Kentucky...My family of Beam distillers have been there...

The creator of Early Times was Jack Beam...Joseph L. (my greatgrandfather) held his first job (14 years old) workin for his Uncle Jack...

One distillery in particular...There is a picture of it, back when it was called "Buffalo Springs Distilling Co,...You can see it in the Getz...It's in the case with the "Old Stagg" bottles are located...In that picture is a group of people...The man on the top row...to the far right with the "white" hat on is my "Uncle Otis"...

Stizel Weller, under Julians folks...Hell, all 8 of my family of Beam Distillers, worked there, a time or two...I have made a post, with the letter from Julian VanWinkle about my greatgrandfather's death...

I was at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago...Saw Bill Samuels Jr. (My Autobiography) on the 1/2 price rack...I thought, what the hell, so I bought it...Paid 15 bucks...I guess, I was lookin for stuff about the history of bourbon...

Now "THIS" is a story about Maker's Mark...In the past, I have read all of the comments about Maker's...Bill Samuels SR. on many occasions, has always, metioned my "Uncle Elmo" distilling there...

My Uncle Elmo and Bill Sr. were really good friends...Uncle Elmo, retired from distililling and moved to Florida...Bill Sr. called him and asked him would he help him with the distillery...He "Unretired" himself from distilling and moved back to Kentucky...and that is "The rest of the Story"...

This article is about Maker's Mark...It was published in the U of L Alumni Magazine...by Kevin Rayburn...

Take Leslie Samuels, for instance who built a distlllery during Prohibition under the bold assumption that the law would be reapealed.

Or his son, Taylor William Samuels SR. '32S who bought and antiquated distillery to make a high quality, premium priced bourbon brand, in 1953, a time when the industry was over stocked selling less and selling new whiskey at a higher price that six year old aged whiskey.

Though they went against the grain in each instance the Samuels gambles all paid off.

The final legacey of these gambles has been Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey of the Old Style Sour Mash variety. The product is the ultimate distillation of a family tradition that goes back to Colonial days. The family line has since made whiskey with each succeeding heir taking charge.

The now retired Samuels notes that when his ancestors settled in Nelson County, Virginia (now Kentucky) the area of the commonwealth most often noted for whiskey tradition their lumber business was larger than their distilling business.

That was six generations ago. Frontier Kentucky, was densley wooded, prompting a lumber business for most settlers. As the settlers gradually cleared the land, agricultural activity followed.

Kentucky's fertile soil produced abundant grain harvests. But bulk and weight made getting the grain to distant markets an unprofitable venture. Transforming the grains into whiskey increased the profit margin for these early farmers.

The Samuels distilling activity was born of these humble origins. And more or less grew from a neighborly side-line to a full-time occupation by the days of Samuels' great grandfather, Taylor William Samuels 1, for whom Samules SR. is named.

Another legandary Nelson County whiskey name, Jim Beam, was Samuels SR's next door neighbor in Bardstown. Jack Beam, the creator of Early Times lived across the street. Both brands are still produced today.

With all of that whiskey traditon running through his veins, as it were, it was probably, a little shocking when T.W. Samuels Sr. enrolled in the Speed Scientific School's mechanical engineering program.

I had always been fascinated by anything mechanical, realls Samuels. I knew that the Speed School was really top-notch.

The Speed School of the early thirties was vastly different from today's computer-packed edition. Samuels recalls, that in some of my classes there were only three or four students. It was a real grind and with the co-op program, you went to school year round.

Neverless he found time to work for local electric companies and the trolley company at night and on weekends. He was elected president of his senior class, and even found time to illustrate the sections of the class yearbook-The Speedometer.

Samuels graduated in 1932. He immediately used the skills he learned at Speed to help retool and restart the family distillery---the T.W. Samuels distillery in Deatsville, owned by his father, Leslie an others---which had been closed during 16 years of prohibition. He stayed on to help run the business as vice presdent and general manager.

He also married the former Majorie Mattingly 33A of Louisville in 1937. They would have three chldren; Taylor William Jr., Nancy Temple, and Leslie Terrel...

In 1943, the firms's outside owners decided to sell the distillery, and Samuels left the business. After a stint in World War 11 Samules bounced around doing odds and ends, he says including organizing a country club in Bardstown., serving on a school board selling timber and advising a contracting firm and selling packaging machinery that made cereal and soap boxes, etc.

Meanwhile, he was becomming obsessed with the idea of making the perfect bourbon, he says. The therory fermenting in his head was that wheat--which makes a much milder bread than rye---would do the same for whiskey. During these traveling years, Samuels elicited opinions about the good and bad qualities of existing bourbons. He decided that any whiskey he made must have four qualities; a pleasant aroma, a pleasant initial taste when it first hits the taste buds, a lack of firey harshness that burns you and a good after taste he says.

Just as when his father started building a distllery diring Prohibition people called Bill Samuels "Daring" for starting a distillery in 1953. The industry as a whole was overproducing, thanks to modern cost-cutting and time-saving methods and sellin less flavor-ful bourbons he says.

Starting a premium-priced whiskey during a general sales decline was thought to be a bad idea by everybody, Samuels says. But, I was confident, it was going to work as long as I did it differently an stressed quality.

I had long observed he notes, that the trend in cigarettes was that they were getting milder. We thought that would be the trend in bourbon too.

The envisioned premium taste also meant a premium price at least $2 more per fifth. Using wheat---much more expensive than rye and slow, outmoded production methods that wouldn't yeild enough bourbon for mass sales, Samuels forged ahead. He bought a ramshackled distlllery in Loretto and contacted the distiller who had worked with his dad an grand dad--------ELMO BEAM------I would be six years- the lenghty aging period Samuels required for his bourbon---before he could sell his drink.

Yearly samplings of the barrels promised that perfect whiskey. In 1959 Samuels tasted , liked , bottled , and marketed that first batch---a stock of less than 1,000 cases.

We didn't have much money to promote it, says Samuels but within five years the distillery earned enough to break even and slowly increased production. The brand has had a steady annual production growth.

His wife, failing health caused him to sell the distillery in 1981. She died, three years later. Bill Samuels Jr. reamains as president at the brands Louiville headquarters, extending the Samuels family's involvement in the disitlling business an extra generation.

Samuels SR. has been a director of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a director of the Kentucky Distiller's Association a director of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and advisor on the board of U.K.'s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and a trustee of Bellarmine College. He is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and still holds his prfessional engineers liscense. He is a recipient of U OF L's Order of Merit.

Though he maintains a busy schedule, Samuels maintains, I don't do much of anything anymore. His true indulgence these days, is traveling. He and his second wife, Laurice Setttle, spend two to three months every summer at their townhouse on Granfather Mountain, N.C. As was his philosophy with prducing Maker's Mark--"never hurry"--Samuels remains dedicated to quality rather that quantity.

There is a picture of "the Samuels family and the Beam family "outing" (1916) at Mamoth Cave, Kentucky...Sorry...It did not scan very well...

grin.gifgrin.gif Bettye Jo grin.gifgrin.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well BettyeJo looks like you're doing your homework again. I might pay 15 for his book but the Nelson County Library has 3 or 4 copies. I wanted to buy it one year for Christmas like I did Sally's book but after looking it over a bit I figured I could live without it. All that ad copy doesn't do it for me. They didn't mention Elmo Beam on the tour a few weeks back, come to think of it they didn't say who their Master Distiller was. Does it refer to Bill Samuels Jr as a marketing genius in the book? I've seen that somewhere.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, it sure nuff does...

On the back "paper cover" it has his picture...

It states...Bill Samuels Jr. was born to run the Maker's Mark Distillery-he just didn't know it at first. He thought he was a rocket scientist, untlil his boss on the Polaris missle projcet asked him not to touch anything. Without the Soviet Union to defeat, he thought he might as well make whiskey.

Takes about twenty minutes to read the entire book...

grin.gifgrin.gif Bettye Jo grin.gifgrin.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

. Without the Soviet Union to defeat, he thought he might as well make whiskey.

The way I'm seeing it he hasn't made any whiskey yet , has he? I think his Dad had about the same take as the Rocket guy and was very worried he might screw things up at Maker's too.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.