Monday, March 4, 2013

Watering Down Your Bourbon

Watering Down Your Bourbon

Earlier this week bourbon fans got some pretty shocking news. Their drinks would no longer be as stiff as one would expect them to be as Maker's Mark is diluting their proof
Maker's Mark announced it is reducing the amount of alcohol in the spirit to keep pace with rapidly increasing consumer demand.

In an email to its fans, representatives of the brand said the entire bourbon category is "exploding" and demand for Maker's Mark is growing even faster. Some customers have even reported empty shelves in their local stores, it said.

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-based Beam Inc., said it's done extensive testing to ensure the same taste. It says bourbon drinkers couldn't tell the difference. It also underscored the fact that nothing else in the production process has changed.

"In other words, we've made sure we didn't screw up your whisky," the note said.

On the surface of this story you would expect people to be pretty pissed about it. I mean, you're watering down the product, man. And while it is shown in studies that the consumer base couldn't tell the difference, it does mean you're getting less alcohol content per bottle.

At the same time, they're making it so that they can actually meet the demands. One of which is from Asia, where the consumption of barrel aged spirits like bourbon is taking off like a bullet. Though you have to wonder if they mess around with it too much, if that demand will suddenly drop like a ton of bricks.

I get it. I mean, you can't really predict for these sort of market forces when you're making a product today that will not hit the shelf for at least six years. So you have to plan accordingly and roll with the punches, so to speak.

But yes, you can blame Asia for taking it all. In fact, 35% of liquor sales is accounted for by bourbon. So it really is a growing industry. I also don't blame them or even think this is all that bad of a thing. Brands like Maker's need to do this instead of raising prices by a couple of bucks. It's not like it's a cult favorite anymore anyway. It's a supermarket bourbon that needs to appeal to the bargain shopper. If the price tag is higher than Four Roses, Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, etc. Then people will just buy those instead. There's too many choices at that $20 price point for them not to go with the watering it down option.

Besides, these people aren't going to check the proof anyway. They just know everyone drinks Maker's Mark and it comes in a bottle with melted wax on it. 90% of this stuff seems to be used in mixed drinks behind bars anyway. I imagine the average joe won't even notice even if the study saying they won't notice was just a PR fluff piece.

Besides, Maker's is a starter bourbon that a lot of drinkers cut their teeth on and then move on to the more interesting stuff. You're not going to have the taste suffer since the flavor of Maker's isn't that complicated to begin with.

So hey, keep drinking. And if you want to be nostalgic, go out and buy a bottle of it, it's only like $20 at CVS right.

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