Bourbon lovers might wish to raise a toast to Maker’s Mark, if for no other reason than the company has recognized its fans have spoken – and they like their alcohol undiluted. On Feb. 17, Maker’s Mark announced it has reversed its decision to water down its whisky bourbon.
In making the announcement, Maker’s Mark issued a public apology as a letter that acknowledged the reversal is based on the negative feedback from the brand's fans. The letter was signed by COO Rob Samuels and his father, chairman emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr. It was posted on the company site and on the Maker’s Mark Facebook page, and a tweet was sent out linking to the text.
In the letter, Maker’s Mark said, in part:
“Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.
“You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.
“So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.”
The statement drew an immediate response on Facebook, adding than 22,300 “likes,” 7,300 comments and 7,300 shares from the Maker’s Mark’s page within seven hours of Sunday’s announcement.
On Feb. 11, the company announced plans to cut by the alcohol content in Maker’s Mark bourbon to 84 proof in order address a supply problem, as demand for the bourbon has outpaced production. The shift was intended to be temporary, while Maker’s Mark expanded its distillery and production capacity.
The decision was offered as an alternative to raising prices. But business analysts suspected it was also a move to avoid creating competition with higher-end products such as Knob Creek and Basil Hayden, both brands owned by Beam Inc., Maker Mark’s parent company.
Maker’s Mark had attempted to reassure consumers that the bourbon's taste would remain the same, indistinguishable. It wasn't a convincing argument, and fans of the whiskey bourbon let their displeasure be known.
“They would rather put up with the occasional supply shortage than put up with any change in their hand-made bourbon,” Rob Samuels told the Associated Press.
That makes sense. After all, people don’t like to have their drinks watered down in a bar. It stands to reason consumers wouldn't want to buy a bottle of Maker’s Mark they know has been diluted as compared to what the company has offered since 1958.
Maker’s Mark, responding to its fans, quickly reversed its decision. It now promises to keep its signature 90 proof bourbon along with its signature red-wax seal. It making that reversal a public apology, Maker’s Mark also has demonstrated its willingness to listen to consumers and to acknowledge the company’s missteps.
“Our focus was on the supply problem. That led to us focusing on a solution,” Bill Samuels told the AP. “We got it totally wrong.”