Maker's Mark mistake becomes a hot collectible

The secondary market scoops up keepsakes as the Samuels family steps away from plans to dilute the bourbon.

By Jason Notte Feb 19, 2013 1:54PM
File photo of bourbon bottles at Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery, on 16 Oct. 16, 2006 (Walter Bibikow/Corbis)Think Beam Inc.'s (BEAM) decision to water down Maker's Mark and subsequent plan to return to the bourbon's original 45% alcohol by volume were worthless? You don't know the American collector.

On Sunday, Maker's Mark heads Rob Samuels and Bill Samuels Jr. took to Facebook and announced that their plan to preserve supplies of Maker's Mark by watering it down from 45% ABV to 42% was damaging their brand and family's legacy more than they could have imagined.

After more than a week of loud, angry, fan-fueled hangover from their decision, the crux of the statement could be distilled down to seven words: "We're sincerely sorry we let you down."

To collectors, there was no apology necessary. As Bill Samuels Jr. told an interviewer at National Public Radio station WKYU at Western Kentucky University, a “relatively small amount” of the 42% ABV Maker's Mark found its way to a few markets before the Samuels family made its announcement.

“We've had calls coming in here, and it's collectors who are actually looking for the bottles.”

One collector's gain, however, is another's complete waste of time and money. The alcohol policy at online auction site eBay (EBAY) prevents sellers from putting a full bottle of Maker's up for bid, but empties have made their way to the site with starting prices as high as $30. Sellers anticipating the drop to 42% ABV, however, are having a tough time getting folks to pay $3 to take their recycled 45% ABV bottles now that the old formulation is here to stay.

Still, demand for those few remaining 42% bottles is there. The Samuels family told that they're transitioning some of the remaining 42% ABV Maker's back to 45%, but are considering selling some of the remaining 42% bottles in the gift shop of their Loretto, Ky., distillery. In the meantime, the blog is pointing fans toward the few remaining 42% bottles they can find.

This isn't exactly new ground for Maker's Mark, which routinely releases specially labeled collector's bottles and has featured on other labels University of Kentucky basketball coaches Rick Pitino and John Calipari and such Cincinnati sports figures as Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson and former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason. A keepsake dedicated to one of the biggest headaches in the brand's history, however, is a bit of a first.

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Feb 19, 2013 5:47PM
Makers mark is getting millions in free advertising. The execs are no dummies !
Feb 19, 2013 5:07PM
One would think that these executives would have more brains than to try this stunt.  Haven't they learned from Net Flix, JC Pennys, Sears, etc., not to screw the customer.  I'd rather pay more for the product than reduce the size of packaging, dilute the product, etc.  Once they do this they lose far more in customer loyalty than they could ever make in profits.
Feb 19, 2013 6:01PM

This was either a knee jerk decison on the company or an absolute genius marketing ploy concocted from the beginning.  Either way MM is my favorite whiskey.  Always will be...



Feb 19, 2013 5:51PM
Agreed with M-man...

My youngest daughter turned me onto Makers Mark
some years ago and I found it to be one of the finest
whiskeys I have ever had the privilege to consume.

Of course, she was 13 so I had to punish her a little.
I promised to save some for her when she turns 21,

Thank you, Makers Mark,  for listening to your customer
base, when so few other companies do.  An exceptional
beverage from a wise manufacturer.

Feb 19, 2013 5:59PM
its like new coke, except they were smart enough to not put in into full production
Feb 20, 2013 4:17PM
Makers Mark is overpriced and not as good as less expensive brands. Four Roses is better  and  less expensive.. Woodford Reserve is same price and is the best.
Feb 20, 2013 7:51PM
We are the only species on earth that f... each other over for a percentage.  Such stunts provide 'great examples' for our children; don't they?  We are becoming a nation of 'get overs'.
Feb 19, 2013 8:00PM
Found a bottle back in July that was sitting in a drawer and had to drink it. The stuff will really put hair on your chest.
Feb 20, 2013 5:45PM
Never liked the stuff anyway could care less what they do. next time do some research instead of trying to be the lmighty...
Feb 20, 2013 5:39PM
Jack Daniels pulled the wool over people's eyes twice, once on aging and then cut the proof back. It's called increasing profits doing whatever you can get away with. They were called on it but others have been successful.  Look for the price to go up shortly...
Feb 20, 2013 7:57PM
Show them what you think - switch to Jamison or Bushmill and watch Beam's sales crumble!
Feb 19, 2013 7:05PM
Wow, and I've got two unopened bottles I bought in Dec.  One was for a gift that I forgot to give, and the other was for myself.  I wonder how you can tell if they are the watered down ones?
Feb 19, 2013 6:39PM
MMmmm Maker's Mark and a Coke back.....
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