I have known Bill Samuels, Jr. for over twenty years. I have always respected him for being what I consider a generous “World Ambassador for Bourbon”. I have never heard him say anything negative about other brands or distilleries. He is free with his wealth of knowledge about everything Bourbon. He is also very entertaining to listen to, even if some of the stories are a bit of an exaggeration, there is always an element of truth to them that Bill wants the listener to remember. 

This book is classic Bill Samuels. It is full of humor and fun stories, but at the same time there are many important truths about Maker’s Mark and the Bourbon industry as a whole. I would highly recommend this book to anyone new to Bourbon. They will enjoy the read and at the same time, learn the Bourbon basics. Maker’s Mark: My Autobiography, by Bill Samuels, Jr. Louisville, Ky.: Saber Publishing, 2000, Introduction, Photograph Credits, Illustrated, 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 successful 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 illustrations. 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 with 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 forgivable. It is not a history book even though there is an element of history in the book.

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 and does 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 looks very good, is very amusing and clever and finally, it is a prime example of Maker’s Mark advertising. It also does a very good job at educating someone new to Bourbon. A great “first thing I should read to learn about Bourbon” book.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller