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Oldham County Historical Society Gala

History Center to honor Samuels
at 2012 fundraising event

His family founded the
Makers Mark Distillery in Loretto

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (September 2012) – The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the name, Bill Samuels Jr., is Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey. But Samuels Jr. is just as involved in the history of Oldham County as he is in the bourbon industry his family established decades ago in Loretto, Ky.
Samuels Jr. and his wife, Nancy, are Oldham County residents. He has supported the Oldham County History Center in years past and done much to preserve the state’s rich heritage, one in which his family has firmly planted roots.

Oldham County Historical Society Gala

• Friday, Sept. 28 with 6:30 p.m. reception; 7:30 p.m. dinner at the Oldham County History Center, 106 N. Second Ave., La Grange, Ky.
• Tickets $125 per person. To reserve, call (502) 222-0826

His family began distilling whiskey in 1783 when his ancestor, Robert Samuels, produced whiskey for personal use and for friends. In 1840, another ancestor, T.W. Samuels, built the first commercial distillery at Samuels Depot. Bill Samuels Sr. signed the deed to what would become Maker’s Mark Distillery in 1953. This was after he had burned the 170-year-old family recipe and started again from scratch.
Samuels Sr.’s reasoning for burning the recipe had been so that he could take the bitterness out of the new brand of bourbon he established. Other distilleries soon followed suit.
Samuels Jr. took over Maker’s Mark in the mid-1970s after his father sternly warned him, “Don’t screw up the whiskey.” He had learned much of the distillery business – not from his father but from another whiskey family’s member – Jack Daniel’s great nephew, Hap Motlow.
Samuels Jr. possessed a unique personality and had a knack for marketing in a nonconventional way – one that helped his product succeed to the status of producing a million cases annually.
“Mr. Samuels Jr. has made special efforts to preserve Kentucky’s history and devoted much of his life to promoting Kentucky in the national tourism market,” said Nancy Stearns Theiss, executive director of the Oldham County History Center. This is just one of the reasons Samuels Jr. will receive the J. Chilton Barnett Champion of Oldham County History award on Sept. 28.
The award will be presented during the Oldham County Historical Society’s 11th annual Gala and Awards Ceremony. This year’s theme, The Bootleggers’ Ball, reflects the current exhibit, “Bottoms Up: The J. Chilton Barnett Whiskey Jug Collection.”

Samuels

Samuels

The Gala is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. and take place on the grounds of the History Center in La Grange. A reception with an open bar will kick off the evening, followed by the award presentation, catered dinner by Ladyfingers, live music, and silent and live auctions. Richard Beard of Beard’s Outdoor Power Equipment is the Honorary Co-Chair of the Gala.
Duane Murner, a member of the Oldham County Historical Society Board of Directors, said Samuels Jr. “is probably one of our most famous residents in Oldham County. He is devoted to Oldham County and to history.”
In addition to making a couple of appearances before the historical society, Murner said Samuels Jr. has been “a vocal advocate on our behalf and a big supporter.” Samuels Jr. was Honorary Co-Chair of the gala several years ago.
The annual Gala provides almost one-third of the Historical Society’s total operating budget, making it an important fundraising event. Numerous sponsors make this event possible.

• Tickets for the Gala are $125 per person. To make reservations or for more information contact the Oldham County History Center at (502) 222-0826 or email: ochstryctr@aol.com.

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