Sally Van Winkle Campbell, the daughter of "Pappy" Van Winkle wrote a book caleld "But Always Fine Bourbon" and gives part of the story of Bill Samuels Sr. starting with Makers. And, the Lousiville Distiller families know the real story.
The Samuels are a very old distiller family, they were on "Distiller's Row" in Bardstown right along side the Beams and others back in the early 1900's.
Bill Sr. MAY have burned the family recipe, but the single most significant factor in his "new" grain bill was changing rye to wheat. Van Winkle's Sitzel Weller distillery, which made "Old Fitzgerald" that was long considered the best bourbon in the world, used an old Sitzel-Weller grain bill that used wheat instead of rye in the mash bill. Van Winkle GAVE the recipe and more importantly, some starter yeast, to Samuels Sr. when he started Star Hill farms, (e.g. Maker's Mark). He just wanted to start a premium quality bourbon, which, at the time, it probably was, and was different because they limited runs to 19 barrels in a single run. Which....well....that's still huge, but it was small compared to the common qualities made at one time in the industry. People like Beam and Charter would make, say, 50 barrell runs and quality was all over the place.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Bill Samuels Sr., and Jr. never made whiskey, not a drop. They only ever were the business brains behid all this. The last Samuels to actually make whiskey was the later part of the 1800's. You have to understand that these distiller families have been wealthy for a long time and they just don't sit there and distill whiskey, they hire it done. They handle the money and write the contracts and count the money. The relationship between the name and person that makes the whiskey is not nearly as close as they would have us believe. Those people don't make whiskey, they own the business. The actual making of the whiskey has for many years and in most every case, been something that the owner with the recognizable last name simply does not do, that's like owning a famous race horse and trying to convince people that you change shoes on the horse. They don't and never would. We don't get that because we here are so focused on the process itself. Large distilleries are focused on making money, they can hire someone to actually make the whiskey.
I didn't know any of this until I started spending time in Louisville and Bardston, and actually meeting some of the higher up people in the bourbon industry. There are norms and ways of doing things that have nothing to do with the marketing material you see on the internet. It's a marketing ruse to get you to think that, for example, Bill Samuels is somehow right there in the still house checking the quality of the output. Trust me....he's not, and has never been, not a single time, ever, and has never made a drop of whiskey in his life, and neither did his dad, they were not distillers, they were and are business people trying to make money. That's not some far out or harsh claim, it's just the truth.
Neine Krausen und Klumpin