The Tasting Panel magazine

JUNE 2011

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Page 111 of 132

Maker’s Mark Legend ON THE EVE OF HIS RETIREMENT, THE TASTING PANEL SPENDS TWO DAYS BEHIND THE SCENES WITH BILL SAMUELS story and photos by Fred Minnick A s Bill Samuels Jr. walks onto the stage to give his final words as Maker’s Mark President, his stringy, pinkish, reddish orange polyester wig glistens in the spotlight and his purple vest beams flashing lights like a Christmas tree. He could have easily been mistaken for a Van Halen roadie, but those who know the man understand that his eclectic nature requires a few, let’s say, creative costumes from time to time. The crowd—Maker’s Mark’s loyal brand ambas- sadors—erupts in cheers. “We love you, Bill,” a deep voice echoes. “Don’t go,” a woman yells. With the wig brushing against his cheeks, it’s hard to see his emotion, but Samuels’s voice slightly breaks when he says, “It’s been a long career, a hell of a time.” He looks at his glass one more time, tipping it toward the crowd: “Let’s have a cocktail.” Bill Samuels Jr., who retired in April as President of Maker’s Mark, signs one of his last bottles of bourbon. june 201 1 / the tasting panel / 111

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