We love Maker’s Mark Whiskey… if you’ve paid attention to us at all over the past 2-1/2 years you’d already know that about us. Hell… Paystee was ordering Makers & Coke since he was old enough to get his first fake i.d.! But now… things are changing. In a letter to the Maker’s Mark Ambassadors: Rob Samuels, CEO, and Bill Samuels Jr, Chairman Emeritus, stated that they will be cutting the Maker’s we all know and love by an alcohol volume of “just” 3%. In regular-man terms that means they’re cutting their booze down from 90proof to 84proof. “But why?!?!?!” you shout from the top of your lungs… because of demand! Yup… be proud of yourselves you drunken delinquent bastards. Because of all your boozing and crazy love of damn fine whiskey… the rest of us may suffer. Wait… congrats on all your boozing and drunken delinquency, because we’ve short supplied a mega-distillery? I’m confused. Should we be happy that we all sauced ourselves into a whiskey shortage or ashamed?
What are Paystee’s thoughts on his favorite beverage being altered?
“84 Proof…. Tang is stronger. Might as well toss some Skittles in there. Damn liberal Amuurica…They want my guns and my liquor! Well come and get it!!!!!”
Now… before you sharpen the pitch-forks and light the torches, these dudes with a lot of stake in making sure quality doesn’t change, stated:
“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. We’ve also done extensive testing with Maker’s Mark drinkers, and they couldn’t tell a difference.”
Still worried? To show how cool these cats are they even promise:
“… we’ve made sure we didn’t screw up your whisky.”
In our “professional” opinion… we say the proof is in the whiskey! In the next few weeks, as the new Maker’s Mark H2O is being rolled off the shelf… we recommend grabbing a bottle and having a good-ole-fashioned taste test. You better damn-well believe we will be!!! (We wish the peeps at Maker’s would send us some “samples” to test with… but if not, its money well spent)
Here’s the official letter in it’s entirely for you to read and make judgments for all on your own:
From: Rob Samuels <[email protected]>
Rob Samuels. Chief Operating Officer of Makers Mark Bourbon Distillery and Ambassador-in-Chief
Date: February 9, 2013, 9:16:34 AM EST
Dear Maker’s Mark® Ambassador,
Lately we’ve been hearing from many of you that you’ve been having difficulty finding Maker’s Mark in your local stores. Fact is, demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we’re running very low on supply. We never imagined that the entire bourbon category would explode as it has over the past few years, nor that demand for Maker’s Mark would grow even faster.
We wanted you to be the first to know that, after looking at all possible solutions, we’ve worked carefully to reduce the alcohol by volume (ABV) by just 3%. This will enable us to maintain the same taste profile and increase our limited supply so there is enough Maker’s Mark to go around, while we continue to expand the distillery and increase our production capacity.
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. We’ve also done extensive testing with Maker’s Mark drinkers, and they couldn’t tell a difference.
Nothing about how we handcraft Maker’s Mark has changed, from the use of locally sourced soft red winter wheat as the flavor grain, to aging the whisky to taste in air-dried American white oak barrels, to rotating our barrels during maturation, to hand-dipping every bottle in our signature red wax.
In other words, we’ve made sure we didn’t screw up your whisky.
By the way, if you have any comments or questions, as always, we invite you to drop us a line at [email protected] or [email protected]. Thanks for your support. And if you’ve got a little time on your hands, come down and see us at the distillery.
Chief Operating Officer
Bill Samuels, Jr.
Thank you for your feedback!
Of course, they’ve received a ton of flack from the initial statement… so here’s another statement from camp Maker’s released today:
A lot of people took the time to share their thoughts regarding our recent announcement. We always appreciate open and honest conversation about Maker’s Mark and we’ve gotten plenty of feedback, both supportive and otherwise. Because there are so many comments, it’s hard for an old guy like me to respond, particularly 140 characters at a time. Now that I’ve had time to compose my thoughts, please allow me to try to answer most of the questions we’re hearing.
And by the way, I asked Rob if I could write this response since many people have wondered if I’m on board with the decision to lower the alcohol-by-volume (ABV) level. I am, and here’s why.
First, it’s important to understand that our primary focus now and for the past 50 years hasn’t changed. It’s product quality and consistency, batch-to-batch, year-to-year, with the primary measure of that consistency being the unique Maker’s Mark taste profile. That’s all that truly matters in the end.
Since we’re a one-brand company that’s never purchased bourbon from other distillers when supplies are short, forecasting is very difficult. Over the years, our one variable that helps us avoid market shortages has been the age of the whisky in the Maker’s bottle. That range is between five years nine months and seven years. Because Maker’s Mark is aged to taste, Dad never put a specific age statement on the bottle. It wasn’t the age that mattered; it was the taste, the quality and the consistency.
Some people are asking why we didn’t just raise the price if demand is an issue. We don’t want to price Maker’s Mark out of reach. Dad’s intention when he created this brand was to make good-tasting bourbon accessible and to bring more fans into the fold, not to make it exclusive. And, with regard to the price, the value of Maker’s Mark isn’t set by alcohol volume. It’s about the quality of the recipe and ingredients that go into it, all the handcrafting that goes into the production and how it tastes.
Some of you have questioned how we reduce the alcohol content. The fact is, other than barrel-strength bourbons, all bourbons are cut with water to achieve the desired proof for bottling. This is a natural step in the bourbon-making process. Maker’s Mark has always been made this way and will continue to be made this way.
As we looked at potential solutions to address the shortage, we agreed again that the most important thing was whether it tastes the same. The distillery made up different batches that Rob and I tested every evening over the course of a month. Every batch at 42% ABV had the same taste profile that we’ve always had. Then, we validated our own tastings with structured consumer research and the Tasting Panel at the distillery, who all agreed: there’s no difference in the taste.
For those of you who have questioned if the supply problem is real, I can assure you that it is. While not every part of the country has seen shortages yet, many have, and the demand is continuing to grow at a pace we’ve never before experienced. While we are investing today to expand capacity for the future, by producing 42% ABV Maker’s Mark we’ll be able to better meet our ongoing supply issues without compromising the taste.
Ultimately, all I can ask is that you reserve judgment until you actually taste the whisky, like I did. If you can make it down to the distillery, we’re doing tastings every day with the 42% ABV whisky to give you a first-hand opportunity to try it for yourself. If you can’t make it to the distillery, please give it a try when it gets to your city. And please write me back at that point. I want to hear what you think.
In the meantime, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to write us a note. It shows that you care about Maker’s Mark, and that’s what we’ve been striving for over the past 50 years. I hope you’ll give us the chance to continue earning that devotion and allow us to prove that we didn’t screw up your whisky. All the best.
Bill Samuels, Jr.