Book Review: Maker's Mark: My Autobiography

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Book Review: Maker's Mark: My Autobiography

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Dec 04, 2004 11:51 am

Maker's Mark: My Autobiography, by Bill Samuels, Jr. Louisville, Ky.: Saber Publishing, 2000, Introduction, Photograph Credits, Iluustrated, Pp. 116.

This book is pure Bill Samuels. It is very sharp looking. It is amusing. It does a lot to promote Maker's Mark. It is a prime example of a marketing tool.

The book does tell a story. This story is told in the same way as Maker's Mark advertises, using humor and very good simple illustartions. Open the book to any set of pages and you will see at least one photograph or advertisement. The type setting is very large so there really is not a lot of content to text. The text reads as if you were on a tour of Maker's Mark telling the same stories and explaining the distilling process in the same way. This means there is not a lot of original research and unique history in this book, but that is O.K. It is not suspose to have that type of use.

The book retells all of the old legends that do not have a basis in the known facts such as Elijah Craig inventing bourbon and the first charred barrel being recycled from other uses. It tells the story of baking bread to come up with the wheat recipe even though oral history tapes at the University of Louisville and other sources all say that Bill Samuels, Sr. received the recipe from Pappy Van Winkle at Stitzel-Weller.

What the book does do and does it quite well is promote Maker's Mark while teaching a beginner the fundamentals of bourbon making, tradition and tasting. There is a section on how to taste bourbon. There are recipes for mixed drinks using bourbon. There are recipes for cooking with bourbon. In all cases, it recommends Maker's Mark, but that is to be expected. Through all of this there are great illustrations. Even people who dislike Maker's Mark have to admit that some of the Maker's Mark advertisements are quite funny and effective. They give the book a charm that brands the book as "Maker's Mark" pure and simple.

I would recommend this book for a bourbon library because it does look very good, is very amusing and clever and finally as a prime example of Maker's Mark advertising.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby tlsmothers » Mon Apr 04, 2005 6:15 pm

I sell this book at the store. It is pure Bill Samuels, of course, but I love pulling it out every so often and looking through the ads.
"Drinking just to get drunk is like having sex just to get pregnant." --Robert Hess
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Unread postby KOJI » Tue Apr 05, 2005 8:50 am

I admit I like the Ads and there book, and the Black, and the Gold???

Koji
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Re: Book Review: Maker's Mark: My Autobiography

Unread postby Strayed » Tue Apr 05, 2005 9:17 am

bourbonv wrote:It tells the story of baking bread to come up with the wheat recipe even though oral history tapes at the University of Louisville and other sources all say that Bill Samuels, Sr. received the recipe from Pappy Van Winkle at Stitzel-Weller

Although Bill implies that the choice was the direct result of that (maybe not so fictitious) set of experiments, I find it entirely possible that the last attempt failed as miserably as all the others, resulting in Mrs. Samuels' rarely quoted statement *, "Bill, you get these smelly old bread loaves outta here and then call Pappy and tell him you'll take him up on his offer, ya'heah?"

Another distinct possibility, of course, is that, when confronted by the success of Maker's Mark, the elder Van Winkle (not unlike my own supersalesman father) may have been quick to reply, "Why I taught that kid everything he knows! Yup! Gave 'im the recipe, the yeast, the whole nine yards". There is ample testimony to Pappy's ability to get about four and half feet out of every yard of fact (a proud trait, by the way, common to distillers, hunters, and fishermen everywhere - including Loretto KY).

bourbonv wrote:The book retells all of the old legends that do not have a basis in the known facts such as Elijah Craig inventing bourbon ...

Of course we've all heard the legend of Elijah Craig -- and how he didn't really invent bourbon. And Evan Williams -- and how he wasn't the first bourbon distiller. And, except for some of the very newest members, we all share that "in-the-know" feeling we get from knowing these marketing stories are not real. But I think maybe you're the only one who could tell us where they really came from. Both legends (I think) pre-date Heaven Hill's adoption of these names and subsequent promotion. And in fact, it seems as if EVERY distiller quotes the same legends, even though doing so automatically provides credibility for their competitor. They're sure not doing that with Bill's bread loaves! The Williams and Craig legends may date back further than printed versions, of course, but does the Filson Society or the Getz Museum have early examples of these stories in print? I think it would neat to know how these stories were originally crafted. Why Evan Williams, for example? Elijah Craig is a little more obvious (at least the minister-makes-whiskey angle was certainly convenient at the time), but was there a particular organization in the early 1900's that adopted him?

This piece of discussion really deserves its own topic, since it really isn't about Maker's Mark. If you'd like to expand on it, could you open a new one topic or stick it into an appropriate existing one, maybe in the Lore area? Thanks!


* that would be "last attempt" as defined by Mrs. Samuels.
One possible reason why it's not often quoted is that I just made it up, but hopefully y'all get the point.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Apr 05, 2005 9:43 am

John,
Pappy never said anything publicly about giving Maker's Mark their recipe. The information really does not become public knowledge until years later when U of L did an oral history project with Kentucky Distillery Industry workers. Roy Hawes and Ed Foote were interviewed and Roy tells the story. Charlie Medley later confirmed the story to me saying he was doing a summer internship at Stitzel-Weller when it happened. Pappy actually kept the use of wheat a secret in his lifetime and even had the grain bin for the wheat labeled "Rye" so the person touring the distillery did not know that they were using wheat instead of rye.

Elijah Craig first appears in print in Collins' History of Kentucky in the late 19th century. Evan Williams claim is based upon work by R. T. Durrett of the Filson who wanted the first everything in Kentucky to happen in Louisville. If he could not find the proof, he had it made up for him. He made the claim for Williams in 1793, but we have the record of his passage to America here in the Fenley-Williams Family papers and it is dated 1794.

Mike Veach
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