Friday, February 15, 2013

My thoughts on the Maker’s Mark Dilution:

The tempers have calmed a bit and clear thinking has hopefully come back for the most part since last weekend’s announcement went online. To get you up to date on the whole thing, here is what Maker’s Mark sent out to its followers that has been making such a splash: 

“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.”

I have been trying to get my head around the whole thing and to look at the situation clearly. I’ve read Time, John Hansell, Chuck Cowdery, etc. Positively Beam has been forthcoming in what it is doing, something not always seen in the industry. It is also a solution to a problem. There is a lot of demand for the product. What will a few percentage points actually do? But we ultimately come back to the same questions: Why didn’t they anticipate the increase? They had time, and they could have expanded a few years ago – we all know they could afford it. Will they lower the price? No, and it makes sense to look at this as a price increase rather than a dilution issue (as Cowdery pointed out).

So is this a big deal or not? I think it is because it ultimately it shows a shift which appears to be occurring in the industry: A push for lower abv so as to increase stock and make easy money. We have seen it with Jack Daniels. It appears that Wild Turkey is setting up its 81 proof whiskey to possibly overtake the harder and harder to find 101. And now it’s happening with Maker’s Mark – a seemingly calculated response, as Hansell points out, not an unexpected demand increase as Maker’s is saying. I have usually defended the industry – when people compare the micro-distilling industry as a savior against the large multinational corporations as if the current situation is like the beer industry in the 70s – but when I see shifts like this it doesn’t leave a ton of room for credibility. This might be the way of things, but let us hope not. Let’s hope people make enough noise so as to keep these older and larger distilleries from lowering their standards.Yes, I am claiming this as a lowering of standards.This isn't simply about if a product "taste the same" (which is a rather odd thing to say). It's about the small steps that lead a product to big changes.

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  1. Richnimrod says;
    I'm with ya', dude; although I don't understand all the ins & outs of the industry like you probably do. I certainly do know when somebody is peeing on my leg and telling me it must be raining. Lowering prooof of all existing bottlings is just a way to grab quick profits. Whether or not the product "tastes the same" it ISN'T THE SAME!

    1. Ha - Well said! It isn't the same. It is truly a slippery slope when one starts to use language like this. There are so many examples in the beverage and food industry where "tasting the same" is not the issue. And if that is the standard the changes which could follow after might just not be the proof.

  2. I have read from some whiskybook that they can,t make more bourbon. Their watersupply is Limited.