Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame member Margie Mattingly Samuels

In 2014, Margie Samuels became the first woman connected to a distillery elected to the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.  Many reading this may not easily recognize her name, but she had a tremendous impact on the success of Makers Mark Bourbon while working with her husband, Bill.

Display located at the Makers Mark Distillery


While collaborating with her husband, they decided to create a new kind of bourbon using wheat as the flavoring grain instead of the more traditional rye. They tested different varieties of wheat by baking bread using different grain recipes.  It was a red winter wheat recipe without any rye that was selected to be the mash bill for Makers Mark.

Margie was a European pewter collector and understood that a makers mark was a symbol of quality and prestige. She chose the name Makers Mark for the new upscale bourbon.  She paid close attention to the design of both the bottle and the label including the lettering itself to be sure that it became a symbol of handcrafted quality. The lettering she used has now become a universally popular font style.

Makers Mark is also one of the few American bourbons to use the Scottish spelling of whisky versus the traditional whiskey.

When they purchased the former Burks Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky in 1953, she had the foresight to preserve and restore the buildings to their former glory. To this day the Makers Mark distillery is a unique and scenic distillery to visit. The distillery campus earned the designation of National Historic Landmark in 1980.

Buildings at the scenic Makers Mark Distillery

However, the highlight of Margie’s contribution is the creation of the iconic red wax seal that drips down the bottle. Originally melted in Margie’s deep fryer in the 1950’s, Makers Mark bottles continue to be dipped by hand to this very day. Makers Mark is a universally recognizable brand and bottle because of her unique vision and her attention to quality. Makers Mark continues to be a marketing powerhouse through concepts like their ambassador’s program.

She helped bring Makers Mark to life.