The iconic Maker's Mark distillery is best known for the spicy and sweet amber bourbon inside their bottles and the distinctive dripping red wax seal on the outside. Devotees and fans were confident that those things about the Loretto Kentucky brand would never change. But in an email to fans this weekend, representatives of the brand announced that the entire bourbon category in general is "exploding" and demand for Maker's Mark in particular is growing even faster. Some customers have been bemoaning empty shelves in their local stores, it said. And as a solution, starting right now, Maker's Mark will begin diluting the beloved liquid.
A good bourbon takes just under seven years to produce from start to finish, and has to be aged at least two years— you can't just make more as you run out — and that's where Maker's Mark got in trouble. The bourbon boom, which has the spirit going from the slowest growing spirits category to the fastest over the past 18 months, as bourbon and Tennessee whiskey volumes climbed 5.2%, with Super Premium products up 12.4%., caught them nearly unawares and currently demand far outstrips supply. They are ramping up production and putting up more now but those bottles will not be ready for several years.
Now, the company says the best option currently available is to spread the current remaining supply over more bottles to best meet the present day demand. The Maker's Mark label will now read 84 proof instead of the traditional 90. They guarantee that the dilution does not effect the taste — they have been testing — and in order to avoid another shortage, Maker's Mark is planning to expand operations. The proof cut however is permanent. The full e-mail below.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. 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.