Maker’s Mark Waters Down Its Bourbon to Have More to Sell

Monday, 11 Feb 2013 10:05 AM

By Dale Eisinger

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Watering down cocktails with extra mixer has long been a way for bartenders to skimp on the booze, but manufacturers of liquor know the true proof of a drink is in the proof – a designation for its level of alcohol.

Maker’s Mark, producers of one of the world's most popular bourbon whiskeys, is dropping its alcohol content from 90 proof to 86 proof in order get more product out the distillery door to meet rising global demands.

Known for its bottle with a distinctive shape and red label seal, the higher-end spirit has grown in popularity as consumers have developed a taste for expensive bourbon. Many attribute bourbon’s popularity to the hit television drama "Mad Men," as it’s the main character’s drink of choice.

To keep up with the surge in popularity, Beam Inc., the Maker's Mark parent company that also manufactures Jim Beam bourbon, is adding more water to its recipe in order to push out more bottles.

Maker's Mark COO Rob Samuels made the announcement on Saturday.

"Lately we’ve been hearing from many of you that you’ve been having difficulty finding Maker’s Mark in your local stores," he said in an email to customers obtained by Digg.

Samuels said the company looked at all possible solutions to increase volume of the beverage, and executives came to the conclusion that reducing alcohol content by 3 percent was the best option.

Maker's Mark’s new alcohol percentage is 42 percent, the letter notes.

The question is whether discerning whisky drinkers will be able to taste a difference when the watered-down version makes it to their tumblers.

"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," Samuels wrote.

He added the company has done "extensive testing" with regular Maker's Mark drinkers, and they couldn't distinguish between the former and the new version.

"In other words," he said in closing, "we’ve made sure we didn’t screw up your whiskey."

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