In response to rapidly increasing demand for bourbon, Maker’s Mark announced it is reducing the amount of alcohol in the spirit to keep pace with consumer demand.
In an e-mail 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.
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, Ill.-based Beam Inc., said it has done extensive testing to ensure the same taste. “In other words, we’ve made sure we didn’t screw up your whisky,” the note said.
Rob Samuels, chief operating officer and grandson of Maker’s Mark founder Bill Samuels Sr., said this is a permanent decision that won’t be reversed when demand for bourbon slows down. Samuels said that bourbon has gone from the slowest-growing spirits category to the fastest in the past 18 months, driven by growth overseas and demand from younger drinkers. An average bottle of Maker’s Mark takes six and half years to produce from start to finish, and since the company doesn’t buy or trade whiskey, it’s been impossible to keep up.
Beam is the country’s second-largest spirits company by volume. It also makes Jim Beam, Sauza tequila and Pinnacle vodka. It’s still dwarfed by industry-leading Diageo, the London-based maker of Smirnoff, Tanqueray, Captain Morgan and Johnnie Walker.
Many complained that they’d rather see an increase in its price than a decrease in the alcohol. But observers say that by raising the price, Beam would have hurt itself by positioning Maker’s Mark to compete against its own higher-end brands like Basil Hayden’s.