Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky has a long family history of making bourbon. The way the story goes people buy their first bottle of Maker’s because of the appearance of the bottle with its red dripping wax tendrils, it’s unique bottle shape and its hand-printed label. The second time they buy Maker’s is because of the amber spirit inside the bottle.
Though Margie Samuels, Co-Founder of Maker’s Mark Distillery, never held an official title at the distillery, her fingerprints are all over this world-famous bourbon brand. While Bill Samuels, Sr. developed the smooth-tasting, wheat-based Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Margie came up with the name. A noted collector of fine English pewter, Margie knew the “maker’s mark” was a symbol of handcrafted quality. Inspired by this hallmark, she suggested the name Maker’s Mark to Bill Samuels when the company started way back in 1953. She also designed the label and even the unique font that bears the Maker’s Mark name. Margie worked to instill a culture of hospitality at the distillery based on the notion that it should be a welcoming place she would be proud for her friends to visit.
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“My grandmother, Margie Samuels, represents all the values that have shaped not only our family, but the way we continue to work every day at Maker’s Mark,” said Grandson of the Founders, 8th Generation Whisky Maker & Managing Director Rob Samuels. “She was ahead of her time, playing a significant role in establishing what has become one of the most recognizable brands in the world in an industry which in those days had very little room for women.”
Maker’s Mark Creates ‘The Margie Vestibule’ to Honor Margie Samuels
Maker’s Mark is honoring Marjorie Samuels with the opening of a special permanent vestibule at the distillery. Built to showcase her indelible influence on Maker’s Mark, The Margie Vestibule showcases the brand’s heritage and origin story which begins, surprisingly, with Margie’s remarkable pewter collection. The vestibule further illustrates the brand’s journey in a beautiful stained-glass window created by famed New Jersey-based stained-glass artist Neile Cooper, a favorite artist of Rob Samuels.
Her own collection of historic pewter is on display within the new vestibule in handmade cabinetry by renowned woodworkers and artisans Leah Frankl and Chris Lange of Lumber & Light, based in Washington, D.C. The surrounding two all-glass walls featuring original stained glass by Cooper, highlight colorful images from the surrounding landscape ranging from birds, butterflies and native grasses to the ingredients used in the making of bourbon including: corn, wheat, water and oak. This special artwork brings visitors on a visual journey through all the elements that so inspired the vestibule’s namesake.
Finally, the new exhibit would not be complete without a portrait of Margie herself, painted by Kentucky artist Honora Jacob who is known for her portraits of inspiring women. The foundation of the painting is a historic photo of Margie, which the artist filled with color and imagery such as vanilla blossoms (a nod to the flavor notes found in Maker’s Mark) to tulips, which Margie grew in her garden.
Margie (Mattingly) Samuels Grew Up in a Bourbon Family
Margie Mattingly was born and raised in Louisville’s West End. Her father’s family co-founded the Mattingly & Moore Distillery (now Barton 1792 Distillery) in Bardstown in the mid-1800s. Margie was an outstanding and competitive student, graduating at the top of her class from both Louisville Girls High School and the University of Louisville where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1933. At U of L, she became acquainted with Bill Samuels, Sr., a sixth-generation Kentucky distiller whose family owned and operated the T.W. Samuels Distillery.
Bill and Margie were married in 1937. They immediately set up residence at the Samuels homeplace on Whisky Row in Bardstown, next door to Col. Jim and Mary Beam. The Samuels had three children – Bill, Jr.; Nancy; and Leslie. And, starting in 1953, they also collaborated on one other project of note: a new kind of bourbon, which Bill, Sr., created and Margie named – Maker’s Mark.
Her legacy continues today in Maker’s Mark’s commitment to conservation, something Margie embraced early on as she worked diligently to restore the distillery in Loretto and protect the property in the 1950s and beyond. Margie insisted that all the old buildings at the Victorian-era distillery they had purchased not only be saved but also faithfully restored. This ultimately resulted in Maker’s Mark becoming America’s first distillery to be designated a National Historic Landmark. Margie’s preservation efforts also led to a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for Maker’s Mark as “America’s oldest operating distillery on its original site.”
Margie Samuels Inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2014
Margie Samuels passed away in 1985 and was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame (the first woman involved with a distillery to be inducted) in 2014.