Maker’s Mark is struggling to meet the demand for bourbon, and instead of following basic economic principals, they’ve decided to water down their whiskey. I guess we’ll all just have to drink more.
It was less than a week ago that we posted a video from Maker’s Mark showing what separates the bourbon brand from others. Now we get word that they are going to start watering down their whiskey. Unlike some people, my first reaction wasn’t that the sky is falling. Unless you’re drinking a cask-strength booze, which you most likely aren’t, the percentage of alcohol was already intentionally dropped. Maker’s could have just as easily chosen to bottle at 84-proof instead of 90-proof from the beginning. I was willing to chalk it up to a change in direction for the brand. Then I learned why they are dropping the alcohol content.
Demand for bourbon has been rapidly growing, especially in foreign markets. Marker’s is actually selling so well that they can no longer keep up. I see two options at that point. You can either limit your distribution or raise your price. The former makes the most sense from a tradition point of view. Take Bell’s Brewery for example. They recently announced that the next state to which they will be distributing is New York. When asked for a timetable, they responded, “when we can make enough beer.” Instead of compromising their product, they opted to wait until their additional capacity can meet demand. The latter is simple economics. When demand outweighs supply, the price increases.
Beam somehow decided on a third option. They are going to meet the demand by diluting their bourbon. While I respect them for not wanting to raise the price to consumers for one of their most popular brands, they effectively did the same thing by lowering the alcohol content. Yes, I drink Maker’s for the taste, but it’s mostly for the alcohol. Now I’m getting less of the core purpose of the beverage. Apparently they take Chris Rock literally. “If you run outta ‘tussin put some water in the jar and shake it up! Mo’ tussin’.”
This isn’t going to stop me from drinking Maker’s if it appears in front of me nor would I scoff at someone for buying it. The brand even claim that there is no discernible difference in taste. I still wouldn’t want to be one of their brand ambassadors right now. Actually, that’s a lie. While their job is about to get tougher, it would still be an awesome job. Here’s the letter sent alerting ambassadors to the change. It comes from David Weiner by way of Zach Seward
Dear Maker’s Mark® Ambassador,
Lately we’ve been hearing from many of you that you’ve been having difficulty finding Maker’s Mark in your local stores. Fact is, demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we’re running very low on supply. We never imagined that the entire bourbon category would explode as it has over the past few years, nor that demand for Maker’s Mark would grow even faster.
We wanted you to be the first to know that, after looking at all possible solutions, we’ve worked carefully to reduce the alcohol by volume (ABV) by just 3%. This will enable us to maintain the same taste profile and increase our limited supply so there is enough Maker’s Mark to go around, while we continue to expand the distillery and increase our production capacity.
We have both tasted it extensively, and it’s completely consistent with the taste profile our founder/dad/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr., created nearly 60 years ago. We’ve also done extensive testing with Maker’s Mark drinkers, and they couldn’t tell a difference.
Nothing about how we handcraft Maker’s Mark has changed, from the use of locally sourced soft red winter wheat as the flavor grain, to aging the whisky to taste in air-dried American white oak barrels, to rotating our barrels during maturation, to hand-dipping every bottle in our signature red wax.
In other words, we’ve made sure we didn’t screw up your whisky.
By the way, if you have any comments or questions, as always, we invite you to drop us a line at [email address] or [email address]. Thanks for your support. And if you’ve got a little time on your hands, come down and see us at the distillery.