Monday, February 11, 2013

Red Alert, Bourbon Fans: Maker's Mark is Being Watered Down

Posted By on Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Seriously, this is a problem, y'all. In fact, I dare say this might be the biggest news of the day (no, not really), particularly (only) within the non-Catholic bourbon aficionado sphere .

From the Chicago Tribune:

In an email to its best customers, representatives of the brand said the entire bourbon category is "exploding" and demand for Maker's Mark is growing even faster. Some customers have even reported empty shelves in their local stores, it said.

After looking at "all possible solutions," the total alcohol by volume of Maker's Mark is being reduced by 3 percent. Representatives said the change will allow it to maintain the same taste while making sure there's "enough Maker's Mark to go around." It's working to expand its distillery and production capacity, too.

Maker's Mark, made by Deerfield-based Beam Inc., said it's done extensive testing to ensure the same taste. It says bourbon drinkers couldn't tell the difference. It also underscored the fact that nothing else in the production process has changed.

"In other words, we've made sure we didn't screw up your whisky," the note said.

Of course Beam, Inc. would say that; They're the ones who stand to lose money here if they screw this up. But why is Maker's Mark being changed, you ask? And further, by how much? Well, the Atlantic's Zachary Seward has that for you (emphasis is theirs):

But international growth is what's driving demand for bourbon makers like Beam Inc., which produces Maker's Mark as well as Jim Beam, a cheaper and more popular bourbon. Beam executives earlier this month said Australia, Germany, and Japan were strong markets. Last year, the company warned it didn't have enough supply to keep up with bourbon demand. It also raised prices.

I've reached out to Beam to clarify whether the alcohol is being reduced by 3%, as the email says, or three percentage points, which would be more dramatic. The footer of today's email suggests it's the latter, describing Maker's Mark as a 42% ABV beverage, which is also known as 84 proof; it was previously distilled to 45% ABV, or 90 proof. That would be a 6.7% reduction in the amount of alcohol.

Interestingly, another of Beam's brands, the similarly tasty Knob Creek, made a damn advertising campaign out of its shortage-inducing popularity, making me wonder why Beam decided to sacrifice quality for quantity here (not really).

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