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Maker's Mark reverses itself, back to 45%

John McKee

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So does this mean they're going to pull a Woodford Reserve and start blending in stock from other distilleries to get back up to 45%?


Dear Ambassador,

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 unanticipated dramatic growth rate of Maker’s Mark is a good problem to have, and we appreciate some of you telling us you’d even put up with occasional shortages. We promise we'll deal with them as best we can, as we work to expand capacity at the distillery.

Your trust, loyalty and passion are what’s most important. We realize we can’t lose sight of that. Thanks for your honesty and for reminding us what makes Maker’s Mark, and its fans, so special.

We’ll set about getting back to bottling the handcrafted bourbon that our father/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr. created. Same recipe. Same production process. Same product.

As always, we will continue to let you know first about developments at the distillery. In the meantime please keep telling us what’s on your mind and come down and visit us at the distillery. It means a lot to us.


Rob Samuels

Chief Operating Officer,



Bill Samuels, Jr.

Chairman Emeritus,



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This whole thing was so weird.

My reaction upon hearing the news was that this was an incredible example of the all too typical scenario where management wants to court Wall St. by improving margins without raising prices and damns everything else. And yet, assuming Beam management had a passing familiarity with Maker's customers, the reaction couldn't have come as any surprise. Management couldn't have executed that poor a cost-benefit analysis (and if they did, I'd expect the Board to roll heads - we'll see).

Now, I never subscribe to conspiracy theories... but this is the liquor world after all, where shamelessness is the governing ethos. This whole dust up (in addition to a somewhat successful rush at stores) did convince newspapers across the country to run stories stating with credulity that Maker's Mark is a product where demand outstrips supply and scarcity is an issue. This news would run counter to the casual consumer's observation of Maker's being a reliable a staple everywhere from duty free's to bullet proof liquor stores. And personally speaking, I'd rank as the top threat to Maker's brand its market saturation, and the association of Makers as pure commodity among a new generation of consumers.

But what finally did convince me that this was all likely a stunt was the slickness of their retreat. Exhibit A is the retreat's catchy slogans and polished website. Exhibit B is the letter from Rob & Bill Samuels (oh! family business!), as opposed to a letter from actual decision makers.

Speculation aside though, this fiasco/stunt does demonstrate management's disregard for the people who pay money for Maker's Mark. Either management hasn't bothered to get to know them, or they think they're chumps. Embarrassing for everyone.

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