This is the end of an era for sure at Maker’s Mark. Today it was announced that President Bill Samuels Jr. has decided to retire on April 15. Apparently he’s ready to turn the reins over to his son, Rob Samuels, who was named the COO this past October. Regardless of your opinion of Maker’s Mark original (I rated it 7.4) or the new “46” released in 2010 (rated 8.9), the company is one of the most storied in American Whiskey. It has become a bellweather in the industry on the back of a well executed product with a soft, accessible flavor profile, and a distinctive bottle with red wax seal.
Bill’s father, Bill Samuels Sr., bootstrapped the company in the 1950s. He received some assistance from none other than Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle to formulate what would become the Maker’s Mark classic wheated recipe. That was a departure from the norm at a time when Bourbons were in some cases crude, raw, and rough. The strategy to bring a softer, smoother bourbon to the market, along with his mother’s decision to create the distinctive bottle that would bear the red wax “mark”, set the tone for what the company is today.
And while he inherited a great product, make no mistake that Bill Jr. took Maker’s Mark to next level on his watch. He stuck with a simplistic approach of doing one thing really really well. Over the years limited release bourbons have come out of Loretto, KY, where the distillery is located. For the most part, however, Maker’s Mark has stuck to what they know best. The addition of Maker’s “46” after much prodding from consumers and Maker’s Ambassidors was well received in the market. And perhaps it was Bill Jr’s “swan song” of sorts.
Sour Mash Manifesto wishes to congratulate Bill Samuels Jr. on his fantastic accomplishments with Maker’s Mark, as well as helping to push and define the whiskey industry in this country. We wish him, Rob, and Maker’s Mark all the best as they push towards April 15th and beyond.