Maker's Mark waters down bourbon to save supply
Increasing global demand for Kentucky's spirit of choice is leading to tough decisions for distillers.
The folks at Quartz intercepted an email sent to Maker's Mark customers from parent company Beam (BEAM) on Saturday saying that the bourbon's alcohol content would be reduced "by just 3%" to offset shortages and meet rising global demand. However, the company later clarified that it would be reducing alcohol content by three percentage points and actually dropping its potency 6.7% from 90 proof to 84 proof.The Samuels family that produces Maker's Mark -- the bourbon of choice for a bitters-laced Manhattan cocktail -- isn't taking the reduction lightly. Rob Samuels and Bill Samuels Jr. put it plainly to Maker's Mark fans in their email that "we've made sure we didn't screw up your whiskey," but noted that increasing worldwide demand for their product means this is a change everyone will have to live with.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council liquor trade association, whiskey made up a whopping 70% of the $1.5 billion in liquor the group estimates the U.S. exported in 2012. That's triple the nation's beer exports and $250 million more than its overseas wine shipments.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Distillers' Association notes that bourbon accounts for 35% of all spirits produced in the U.S. Bourbon fuels $2.5 billion in sales in the U.S. and in the 126 countries where it's exported and makes up the majority of U.S. whiskey exports.
While the Samuels family isn't comfortable with watering down its prized product, Rob Samuels told Louisville, Ky., radio station WFPL on Sunday that complaints about the new alcohol content "pale in comparison to the feedback that we've received with the shelves being empty" in Florida, California and elsewhere.
It's also not as if they're the first to do so. Back in 2004, Brown-Forman (BF.A) lowered the strength of its flagship Old No. 7 black label Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey from 43% alcohol by volume to 40%. That's a full 10 percentage points lower than what it was in 1987, when Jack Daniel's first had its potency reduced from 90 proof to 86 proof.
The purists muttered and cursed to USA Today then just as they now disparage Beam's Maker's Mark decision as “cheap business practice” in the New York Post. However, the trend worldwide is toward less alcohol content. The Times of India notes efforts in the United Kingdom to get brewers and distillers including Heineken and Diageo (DEO) to produce more low-alcohol beers and spirits. Besides, doesn't less alcohol give fans more time to enjoy the bourbon they love?
More on moneyNOW
Easy fix is take care of American customers first. If any is left export
watering down whisky is stealing form your customers
Just another corprate sell out on my list of never buy the product again
There is much better bourbon available that is not stealing from its customers
That's America today folks. Pay more and get less. LOL Everywhere I look the prices on virtually all spirits are on the rise just like gasoline. Pretty soon I am going to have to quit drinking and switch to marijuana. LOL Just kidding.
Tough Choice? If supply is short, you raise prices unitl demand meets supply (econ 101). I'm ashamed of Makers. I hope this trend doesn't spread to other brands from the Bluegrass state.
Oh well, back to my WoodFord Reserve.
Four Roses Small Batch, Bulleit, W L Weller, Prichard's Double Barrel, Eagle Rare, etc, etc.....
Plenty of quality sippin' whiskey that hasn't been watered down.....
Problem solved. I will stop buying Maker's. Then they can sell the inferior product to unsuspecting customers with new found money.
May I suggest not screwing your tried and true fans! I will just spend all my American dollars on Austin Nichols!
This is nothing more than a reduction in the amount of product that is provided for a price. Coffees that used to be all Arabica beans are now mostly if not all lower-grade Robusta beans. Cans of tuna are a scosh lighter. And so on.
Looks like bourbon's rainy day is here.
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