• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Maker’s Mark Reducing Alcohol Content To Keep Up With Demand

071112_Makers_Mark_1725x810-PAN_18683

Maker’s Mark has seen demand for its bourbon increase so much in recent years that it is finding itself having to temporarily reduce the alcohol content of its product in order to extend its shrinking supply until it can increase production:

Maker’s Mark just got a little less stiff. The bourbon brand, known for its bottles sealed with red wax, told customers today that it’s reducing the amount of alcohol in the beverage in order to meet rising global demand.

Bourbon, which is a form of American whiskey distilled from corn and other grains, has surged in popularity over the past few years. In its largest market, the United States, bourbon now accounts for 35% of all spirit sales as more Americans have developed a taste for high-end whiskey, which is typically aged in charred white oak barrels for six years or longer. In the 1960s and 1970s, Maker’s Mark was famously sold with the slogan, “It tastes expensive…and is.”

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.

In an email today to loyal customers, Beam executives said the company had decided that the only way to keep up with demand was to make its bourbon less strong, stretching the current supply. ”We’ve worked carefully to reduce the alcohol by volume (ABV) by just 3%,” the email said.

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.

“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,” two of the company’s bourbon heirs wrote in the email. “We’ve also done extensive testing with Maker’s Mark drinkers, and they couldn’t tell a difference.”

The email suggests that this is a temporary change that will only last until they are able to expand their distillery to meet the increase in domestic and worldwide demand. The other option, obviously, would be to raise prices even more to control demand but that poses the risk of driving off loyal customers with the risk that they might not return in the future.

I’m not much of a bourbon drinker myself, but when I do Maker’s Mark is a frequent choice. It will be interesting to see what impact these changes actually have on product quality. Quite honestly, I wonder if most people will even notice.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Is nothing sacred?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. stonetools says:

    So , fellow OTBers, what’s your favorite poison? Bourbon or Scotch? Real Scotch or Irish whiskey? Kentucky or Tennessee? Let the debate begin!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Mikey says:

    When I was in Germany last year, I was surprised how popular American bourbon had gotten. Maker’s Mark and Jack Daniel’s were prominent choices.

    Personally, I prefer scotch, although I have a bottle of Maker’s Mark in my cabinet. I’d also recommend Eagle Rare, a fine single-barrel bourbon that tastes a lot more expensive than it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Mikey says:

    @stonetools: Scotch, definitely. Anything from Ardbeg is great, and their Uigeadail is spectacular. Lagavulin 16 is wonderful, too.

    For those who prefer sherry notes to peat monsters, Macallan Cask Strength is glorious, but get it while you can, apparently it’s been discontinued.

    My wife surprised me with a Talisker 10 recently, which is also quite good. Also, Balvenie’s “Caribbean Cask” which is matured an extra two years in rum casks.

    So many options…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    Scotch is increasingly in first place. Macallan, Balvenie, Talisker, Highland Park, Johnny Black, Laphroaig, even Dalwhinnie. I’m open-minded, though my go-to is still Macallan 12.

    Coolest publisher perk ever was when I was on book tour, which is lonely and depressing by its very nature, and sitting in some hotel a knock comes on the door: Egmont has sent me a fifth of Mac 12. Some gestures you remember. Coolest author venue has to be the author yurt at the Edinburgh festival: they keep bottles of Highland Park out at all times. Obviously they know writers.

    But I also drink Bourbon, usually Knob Creek, though I’ve consumed a bit of Makers, Bulleit, Bakers and Bookers. When I was young and poorer it was Dickel.

    If we’re talking beer I love Chimay Blue but also Guinness, Sierra Nevada, Anchor and various other stouts, IPA’s, specialty beers and ales — nothing with fruit.

    Big reds in wine, and I’ve kind of lost interested in whites unless it’s a hot day in an al fresco venue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  6. Scott says:

    When I was stationed in Japan, a bottle of Jim Beam as a gift to a Japanese family was considered a very nice gift indeed.

    But reducing the alcohol content? What’s next: fluoridation?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. @stonetools:

    Definitely Scotch over Bourbon. But, I do like Bourbon at times.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    Mostly Napoleon Brandy and an occasional Beefeater Martini.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Fiona says:

    Used to be scotch, but I’ve come to drink bourbon. Not that I drink much hard liquor. My go-to alcoholic beverage of choice is a nice, dry red wine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Maker’s Mark Reducing Alcohol Content To Keep Up With Demand

    Bad whiskey just got worse. Who cares?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. stonetools says:

    For those who prefer bourbon over Scotch, be advised that such a preference is un-American and that this has been duly noted. Expect a visit from your local FBI agent in due course.

    If we’re talking beer I love Chimay Blue but also Guinness, Sierra Nevada, Anchor and various other stouts, IPA’s, specialty beers and ales — nothing with fruit.

    Yeah, those Belgian monks really know their beer. Don’t they realize they’re greasing the road to hell? On the other hand, maybe Ben Franklin was right and beer is a sign that God loves us.

    Big reds in wine, and I’ve kind of lost interested in whites unless it’s a hot day in an al fresco venue.

    Ah, pinot noir or fuckin’ merlot?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. stonetools says:

    For those who prefer bourbon over Scotch, be advised that such a preference is un-American and that this has been duly noted. Expect a visit from your local FBI agent in due course.

    If we’re talking beer I love Chimay Blue but also Guinness, Sierra Nevada, Anchor and various other stouts, IPA’s, specialty beers and ales — nothing with fruit.

    Yeah, those Belgian monks really know their beer. Don’t they realize they’re greasing the road to hell? On the other hand, maybe Ben Franklin was right and beer is a sign that God loves us.

    Big reds in wine, and I’ve kind of lost interested in whites unless it’s a hot day in an al fresco venue.

    Ah, pinot noir or f$%kin’ merlot?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools: I’m a Scotch guy, with Macallan 18 my personal favorite. But I’ve been experimenting with better bourbons the last couple of months and have found a few that I like.

    @Mikey: The Eagle Rare is quite good, especially at the price. I also like the Four Roses Single Barrel. I haven’t found any of the specialty Small Batch editions but prefer the Single Barrel to the generic Small Batch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. socraticsilence says:

    Stagg and Booker’s for Bourbon, Laphroig 12 and Talisker for scotch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    I default to Cabs (and Bordeaux if I’m feeling flush.) Since I’m drinking mostly California nowadays I’m not crazy about the Pinots. I know there are good ones, but they’re too uncertain. Also I drink a fair amount of Zinfandel because it can be unpredictable in a good way. But unlike Mr. Sideways I don’t hate Merlot — there are a bunch of good table blends that are basically Merlot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Peterh says:

    I’m a Cab guy up, down and sideways…..I don’t drink beer much, except for the warm months and it’s usually Bitburger and Henninger….I don’t do hard stuff much, but when I do, it’s usually Jameson….it’s the Irish in me….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Peterh says:

    Speaking of selling too much….a good friend of mine, whose wife owns one of the more upscale restaurants in Seal Beach, recently lost their Rombauer account for selling too much of their Chardonnay at $16 per glass….we were totally gobsmacked….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. JKB says:

    Remains to be seen if this will degrade the product. A tricky move when so many small scale distillers are just coming up to speed. This one sounds interesting

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Just nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    Edgefield Distillery–a division of the McMinnamin’s “microbrewery” empire makes some really nice brandies, at least to my taste. On my annual trip to PDx, I always drink one raspberry ale at one ot the “brewpubs” and last year, I almost forgot to, so I would conclude that I’m not much of a beer drinker. I like Grolsch, but mostly for the ceramic stopper bottle.

    As for hard liquor, I agree with a friend of mine–the fact that it has alcohol in it is the deciding factor. But a good peaty single malt is always welcome.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Gustopher says:

    Blanton’s is my favorite, with 1792 a close second.

    But lately, I have taken to ryes. Pig Whistle is excellent, with Pendleton being a fine every-day “oh god, I have to sort the laundry, I need a drink” drink.

    Scotch and I, we’ve had our moments. If the cask strength Macallan is being discontinued, I better pick up a few bottles. It’s an old friend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    I have not warmed up to rye yet except for a Manhattan at I believe a Morton’s, if memory serves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. electroman says:

    I prefer Scotch, especially The Balvenie Doublewood. I do indulge in bourbon from time to time, and Maker’s Mark is one of my favorites, especially because it’s much less sweet than most bourbons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. grumpy realist says:

    Definitely Macallan and Laphroaig. Oban is good as well. And curse all boyfriends who introduce one to single southern malts. Too expensive on the wallet.

    What I’m interested is if when Maker’s Mark goes back to the higher alcohol content, are they going to raise the price?

    Bet you 200 quatloos that they will….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. matt bernius says:

    I haven’t had too many opportunities to explore Scotch.

    Far more time has been spent with Whiskey and Bourbon. In terms of good (and cheap) imports, I’ve come to appreciate Teacher’s peatieness. On good (and cheap) domestics, it’s hard to beat Evan Williams.

    But when finances allow, I’ve been really impressed by Finger Lakes Distillery’s (I’m an adopted hometown supporter) Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys. If you’ve ever got the chance these two, and Finger Lakes Distilling’s Gin are worth trying neat.

    BTW, always on the look out for… um.,, economy recommendations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Anderson says:

    (1) Jack Daniels is not bourbon. It’s bourbon that has been charcoal-filtered to remove the elements that make bourbon worth drinking. That is, “Tennessee whiskey.”

    (2) Maker’s Mark is operated by incredibly stupid people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Motopilot says:

    Don’t know much about Scotch, although while at The Queen’s Elm in Chelsea I was introduced to Glenmorangie… which seemed quite nice. I learned to appreciate single malts.

    Local (Seattle area) micro brews are quite palatable. Mac and Jack is fine with me. A little micro brew/pub up in Anacortes makes a nice Pilsner when I wanna go light with a heavy clam chowder.

    Drink of choice is heavy, dry, dark red wine, mostly local Washington state Cabs, although when eating out for Italian it’s time for a Ripassa Valpolicella. So many good California wines to choose from… the ’07 Bell Cabernet is pretty nice. But basically, if you can see through a red it probably isn’t something I would choose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0