by Alan Lytle, Kentucky Public Radio
There’s about to be a changing of the guard at one of Kentucky’s most famous bourbon distilleries. Bill Samuels Jr., longtime president and CEO of Maker’s Mark in Loretto, is stepping down today and handing the reins over to his son, Rob Samuels.
“I expect all the innovation to keep up. He’s very motivated, very community-minded. He went to Harvard Business School. They wouldn’t let me in, so that ought to tell you something,” he says. “This is going to be the easiest transition in the history of our industry. Normally fathers and sons are very different and it causes issues. Rob is my youngest son and we are like, twins.”
Bill Samuels has led the distillery for 36 years. He became president after his father, who founded the distillery, retired. At that time, Maker’s Mark produced about 55 thousand cases of bourbon every year. Last year, the company shipped over one million cases. Samuels says he’d like to retire at a high point in his career. He will stay with the distillery, however, under the title “brand ambassador”.