Bourbon’s First Female VP of Operations, Victoria MacRae-Samuels Discusses Work, Women and Whisky at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, September 21st in Louisville, KY

Bourbon’s First Female VP of Operations, Victoria MacRae-Samuels, Discusses Work, Women and Whisky

 

Bourbon’s First Female VP of Operations,Victoria MacRae-Samuels Discusses Work, Women and Whisky at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, September 21st in Louisville, KY

 

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Pioneering VP of Operations for Maker’s Mark® to be celebrated in
partnership with Women of the Vine® 


In 1989, Victoria-MacRae-Samuels had a conversation that would forever change her life. She was on a road trip with a friend in Kentucky – clear across the country from her home in San Francisco – and found herself, by chance, at the home of larger-than-life distiller and grandson of Jim Beam, Booker Noe.
 
“We had an interesting conversation,” said MacRae-Samuels, who grew up in Seattle, earned a degree in Chemistry from the University of Puget Sound, and had at one time taught Chemistry at the University of Washington. “He was introducing me to the bourbons Jim Beam distilled, which were kind of new to me. I said, ‘I don’t know anything about bourbon,’ and he said, ‘You can learn.’”
 
Today, thanks to that fateful conversation, Noe’s keen eye for talent and MacRae-Samuels’ natural aptitude and determination, she is the Vice President of Operations at Maker’s Mark® Distillery and the first woman to hold that high title in the bourbon business. Her responsibilities include overseeing every aspect of Maker’s Mark®, from the selection of grains, fermentation and distillation, to barrel warehousing, bottling and shipping, quality control and tasting – no small feat considering the high standards set forth by legendary Maker’s Mark Founder Bill Samuels, Sr., and upheld by Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr., and Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels. Moreover, MacRae-Samuels presently supervises a staff of over 100 employees and maintains the upkeep of Maker’s Mark® Distillery as a National Historic Landmark and tasting/touring must on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail®.
 
A Long and Winding Road
Becoming VP of Operations for a Kentucky distillery was a satisfying challenge for MacRae-Samuels. Starting as a member of the Research & Development team at Jim Beam, MacRae-Samuels developed analytical testing that is now common practice in the spirits industry, but left the lab in 1992 to get closer to the distillation process as a Relief Supervisor for Beam’s Clermont and Boston distilleries, later transitioning away from Clermont to focus solely on the Boston distillery. MacRae-Samuels held this Relief Supervisor position, while raising her two young daughters, Katherine and Elizabeth.
 
MacRae-Samuels returned to the Clermont distillery in 1997 as Product Processing Manager, a position in which she managed the creation and processing of all products in the Beam portfolio (more than 30 spirits at the time). She then went on to become Quality Control Manager for Beam’s Clermont and Boston distilleries from 2005 to 2007.
 
In 2008, MacRae-Samuels made the shift to Maker’s Mark as Director of Operations and was integral to the development of Maker’s 46®, the distillery’s first-ever new bourbon. She took her current position as Vice President of Operations in 2010.
 
“The best way to protect the [Maker’s Mark] brands is to empower our team, from grain to case,” said MacRae-Samuels, who went back to school for her MBA at Bellarmine University in 2013 to focus on “training employees, succession planning, and being a better leader for the business.” Soon after starting the program, however, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and took time off to look after her health. “When I came back [in 2014] I found a team that could stand up to the plate when I had to step away.” MacRae-Samuels earned her MBA later that year, and, today, is active in raising breast cancer awareness through various speaking engagements and with organizations working towards prevention and finding a cure.
 
Ms. MacRae-Samuels recently joined the advisory board for Women of the Vine® a membership-based trade alliance that empowers and equips women worldwide to advance their careers in the alcohol beverage industry, fostering gender diversity and talent development across the industry at large. MacRae-Samuels’ engagement with The Women of the Vine organization ties synergistically to the views of both Maker’s Mark  and the brand’s parent company, Beam Suntory, Inc., which whole-heartedly support women in the spirits industry and recognize women as the foundation or support to many of their legendary brands. 

“It’s a pleasure and a privilege to join Women of the Vine, an organization that empowers women to strive for gender diversity and inclusion in the wine and spirits industry,” said MacRae-Samuels. “As a Maker’s Mark and Beam Suntory employee, it has been astounding to be a part of a workplace that embraces an all-inclusive environment that allows all employees to be their best.”
 
To honor her accomplishments as a woman in business and to celebrate her pioneering innovations in the field,  Women of the Vine is partnering with Beam Suntory to present two spirited and engaging evenings with MacRae-Samuels as part of its “Cocktails, Conversations & Connections” regional dinner series.
  • Louisville, Kentucky: September 21, 2016, 6:30– 9:30PM, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (6100 Dutchmans Lane, Louisville, KY 40205)
  • Tickets are $95.00 for Women of the Vine members, $115.00 for non-members, and include a four-course dinner paired with Maker’s Mark cocktails, and an interactive presentation and workshop with MacRae-Samuels. Space is limited; to become a Women of the Vine member or to purchase tickets, visit www.womenofthevine.com.
For more information on the Women of the Vine Alliance, please emailinfo@WomenoftheVine.com or call 888.750.1863.
 
About Women of the Vine
Women of the Vine is a membership-based alliance that empowers and equips women worldwide to advance their careers in the alcohol beverage industry, fostering gender diversity and talent development across the industry at large. Guided by an advisory board of top international executives in the alcohol beverage industry, Women of the Vine offers extensive education, advocacy, training, mentorship, networking and steadfast support for women at every position in the field, particularly through the annual Women of the Vine Global Symposium, March 13-15, 2017, in Napa, California. Women of the Vine: Raising the Bar. For more information, please visit www.WomenoftheVine.comor call 888.750.1863.
 
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We make our bourbon carefully. Please enjoy it that way. Maker’s Mark®, Maker’s 46®, Maker’s Mark® Cask Strength™ Bourbon Whisky, 45%-57% Alc/Vol. ©2016 Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc. Loretto, KY