The First Responders Foundation is honored to be inducting Maker’s Mark & Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits into the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael at the 7th Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor on September 11, 2023. Accepting the award from Maker’s Mark will be Katie Ruhga and from Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits will be Jeremy Kirby.
Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits/Makers
Maker’s Mark began with one family’s quest to create a bourbon they enjoyed drinking and sharing with friends. Bill Samuels Sr. developed the world’s first premium bourbon and changed the industry.
Bill Samuels Sr.
In 1953 Bill Samuels Sr., the visionary, developed Maker’s Mark. This engineer-turned-craftsman elevated bourbon with his flavor vision.
Margie Samuels, the creative soul, created packaging that would honor her husband’s handmade bourbon. The look that is now known worldwide, the shape of the bottle, the label, the signature red wax, and even the Maker’s Mark name are all thanks to Margie. Margie is also credited for inventing bourbon tourism.
Bill Samuels Jr., the innovator, brought the brand from a Kentucky favorite to an American icon. His pioneering wood stave finishing process, used to create Maker’s 46, set the course for Maker’s Mark innovation. This innovative process starts with a fully matured Maker’s Mark at cask strength. A selection of ten custom-cooked wood staves are inserted into the barrel for an additional aging period in the climate-controlled limestone cellar.
Maker’s Mark is still located on the beautiful Star Hill Farm in Loretto, Kentucky where Bill and Margie started the distillery in 1953. Everyone at Maker’s Mark strives to make Star Hill Farm a sustainable, culturally rich, and endearing homeplace.
The limestone shelf where the distillery is located is key to crafting the unique taste of Maker’s Mark – the only distillery with its own water source and watershed. Kentucky limestone filters out iron from water, which is unpleasant in bourbon.
The pure calcium and magnesium-rich water surrounding the distillery makes better drinking water and a better sour mash in which yeast can flourish. Star Hill and the land surrounding the farm are full of diverse plants and wildlife. The natural resources all around help nourish and protect the water source.
Today 8th generation Rob Samuels is the Managing Director of the Maker’s Mark Distillery. Rob’s mission is to ensure every drop of Maker’s Mark is made the same way as the first drop while meeting the world’s ever-increasing demand.
Rob is very supportive of first responders and in particular the First Responders Foundation. Maker’s Mark has created signature bourbon to support the Foundation and our mission to serve first responders, veterans, and their families. The bourbon has been extremely popular and has sold out immediately. To show his support and appreciation for the Foundation and first responders Rob created this video:
First Responder’s Foundation
Maker’s Mark got involved with the First Responders Foundation through Katie Ruhga and Jeremy Kirby. Katie works for Maker’s Mark/Beam Suntory and has been in the alcohol beverage industry for over 18 years both as a distributor and supplier. Jeremy works for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits and has been in the industry for over 28 years.
Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits was created when two companies merged in 2016 to become the world’s largest alcohol distributor. 1909 was the beginning of Glazer with Jumbo Bottling Co. distributing flavored soda from a horse-drawn wagon. That continued until 1933 with the repeal of Prohibition when Louis Glazer and his three sons started Glazer’s Wholesale Distributors and began distributing Schlitz Beer.
Harvey Chaplin, the founder of Southern Wine & Spirits, began his career in 1946 working for Schenley Industries in Manhattan, a leading distilled spirits marketer, and American importer.
Harvey’s son Wayne joined Southern Wine & Spirits in 1984 and the company became the first distributor to gain a statewide network in California. In 1992 Southern Wine & Spirits became the largest U.S. beverage alcohol wholesaler.
Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits builds on its multigenerational heritage. Team members think and act like owners while treating each other with respect, camaraderie, and transparency. Integrity, intellect, and ingenuity guide their decisions and relationships with suppliers, customers, and each other.
In 2017, Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits established the Youth Alcohol Awareness & Education Foundation, Inc., devoted to the prevention of underage drinking. In 2022 they were included in “Forbes” list of Best Employees for Diversity 2022.
Making an Impact
Katie and Jeremy wanted to do something to give back to their local community. Both of their organizations do great things nationally but they wanted to do something that would make an impact in the Omaha metro area. They are both very passionate about those who serve and protect, those who put others’ needs first, veterans, and first responders.
When they started the program in 2021 to help the Foundation our nation was filled with riots, political wars, and protesting, including protesting in Omaha. To do something to make a difference, and to be part of the solution, Katie and Jeremy wanted to create and distribute a bourbon, especially for first responders and the Foundation.
Working together Katie and Jeremy started the process of creating First Responders Foundation bourbon. Al Batschelet, CEO, and Todd Sears, President had the honor and privilege of customizing the flavor profile that would be used in the bourbon.
They toured the farm while making the selections. Then the wait began for the additional two to three months before the bourbon would be ready for bottling. Maker’s Mark created the bourbon and Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirit distributed it. Maker’s Mark has released two Private Select Barrels of First Responders Foundation Bourbon and we are anxiously awaiting the third release this fall.
Our sincere thanks to everyone at Maker’s Mark and Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits for supporting the First Responders Foundation. Special thanks to Jeremy and Katie for making it happen through their appreciation of first responders and wanting to give back to their local communities.
Jeremy was in the Army Reserves from 1991-1997. He has many friends and fraternity brothers who are in law enforcement in Omaha, Kansas City, and Las Vegas. He and his wife Holly live in Omaha. They have two daughters Regan and Rian. Rian’s husband Andrew works at Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits. He and Rian are the parents of Romyn, Jeremy’s first grandchild. Jeremy and his family are always looking for ways to give back to the community.
Katie, who grew up on a farm and loves to visit Loretto, Kentucky, the homeplace, lives in Gretna. She and her husband Mark have three children, Preston in elementary school, and Madison and Makenna who are pursuing careers in medical service fields. Katie is proud that other states are now working with Maker’s Mark to replicate the program started by her and Jeremy.
Certified B Corporations
We congratulate Maker’s Mark for achieving B Corp Certification last December. They are the largest distillery in the world to achieve B Corp Certification and the first distillery in Kentucky’s Bourbon County.
Certified B Corporations are for-profit companies that use the power of business to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. They meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
This makes a significant and globally relevant milestone on the brand’s broader vision to “Make Your Mark, Leave No Trace”. Maker’s Mark leads the spirits industry in innovative environmental efforts that include the largest repository of American White Oak trees in the world.
A first-of-its-kind genome mapping project of the American White Oak and the establishment of a regenerative farming practice.
Maker’s Mark hosts a variety of tours that are open to the public. Learn more about Maker’s Mark by clicking here. You can become an ambassador of Maker’s Mark, or enroll in their direct-to-consumer program as well.
For more about Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits click here.
For more about the Ancient Order of the National Society of St. Florian and St. Michael click here.
For more about the 7th Annual 9/11 Luncheon of Honor click here.