Bourbon drinkers everywhere are pretty pissed off right now after Saturday's announcement that Maker's Mark is reducing the alcohol by volume in its bourbon to better meet demand for the product. Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels sent a letter to brand ambassadors on Saturday explaining that the explosion of bourbon sales in recent years has left the distillery unable to keep up their production capacity. Therefore, the company has decided to reduce the bourbon's alcohol by volume by 3 percentage points, or from 45 to 42 percent ABV. As CNN Money points out, that's actually a 6.7 percent reduction from 90 proof to 84 proof.
Perhaps knowing that customers would not be too pleased about the news, Samuels offers some assurance in the email, writing, "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."
But a number of bourbon drinkers have taken to Maker's Mark's Facebook page anyway to complain about the decision, asking whether the price will be reduced along with the alcohol content and threatening to switch brands. There's also already calls for a boycott, with one Facebook user explaining, "We can help your capacity by implementing a boycotT [sic] so that you eventually will have excess capacity up the wazoo."
Yesterday, Samuels further explained the decision to Louisville's WFPL and specifically addresses the blowback from customers, saying, "We're confident that through maintaining the taste exactly to our standard—that's paramount, that's what means most to us, that's what means most to our consumers. The questions and concerns pale in comparison to the feedback that we've received with the shelves being empty."
Here's the letter:
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.