Sour Mash Manifesto

Bourbon and American Whiskey

Smart move Maker’s Mark

Last week Maker’s Mark sent communication out through their Ambassadors membership program that they were reducing the percentage alcohol from 45% to 42% (90 proof to 84 proof). This angered me greatly. Not because I drink a lot of Maker’s Mark, but because clearly others do. I saw reducing the proof as a slap in the face to consumers. Chuck Cowdery posted some excellent thoughts on this on his blog if you’d like some more back story. Obviously I’m sure Maker’s Mark wouldn’t have made that decision were it not for parent company, Beam. But nevertheless the backlash was intense.

Today, Maker’s Mark issued the below statement on their website. I for one applaud them. This is the way it works in today’s digital age. The power of social media and the ability for company’s to read and process what is being said about them, made it far easier for Beam and Maker’s to address this. Companies are ran by people (and bottom lines), and they make mistakes. What’s important here is they corrected it. As angry as I was about the decision in the first place is as pleased as I am to see the change of heart.

Smart move Maker’s Mark!


You spoke. We listened.

Dear Friends,

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 Bill Samuels, Jr
Chief Operating Officer Chairman Emeritus


  1. The only downside to this is that we don’t get to read your reaction to the original news!

  2. John,

    I posted something on the Sour Mash Manifesto facebook page when the news was first announced. I was out of town last weekend and hadn’t been able to post on it since the news broke. But in reading my facebook post I think you can see how I was feeling. Cheers!

  3. Just ‘liked’ it. Thanks!

  4. Wow. Who’d have thought this possible from corporate America? My hat is off, and I bought a bottle today to celebrate!

    This begs a comparison: Maker’s Mark fans are passionate about their whisky. Jack Daniel’s fans couldn’t give a rat’s ass…more Coke, please!

  5. Kudos to them. I don’t particular like their bourbon (for roughly the same price I think Elmer T. Lee and Weller 12 are far better), but am happy for their customers. Ah, the power of social media.

  6. Serious miscalculation. A gross understatement. I started with Maker’s, graduated to VanWinkle.

  7. Sounds like they took the “NewCoke” experiment to heart before executing the fatal mistake. I would love to have been in that boardroom when they changed their mind….”and who’s idea was this?”

  8. Smart move either way. If they got away with it, they would have gotten away with it. They didn’t, an now they get congratulations for “listening” and will increase the price, I would guess, in about 20 minutes.

    More seriously, I think rather than shortages, they have a distribution problem. I have not been to a liquor store on the east coast that wasn’t full of as much MM as OGD. If there really are markets that need MM, they may just have to redirect some.

  9. I was a bit perplexed at their decision in the first place. A little something my freshman economics course taught me: When demand outpaces supply, you raise the price. You don’t dilute your product.

  10. I don’t care for their bourbon, but I’m happy for the the folks that took the time to voice their opinions and stopped them from making a big mistake!

  11. I’m always suspicious of these things. Seems to me like a marketing move that was planned out from the beginning. Especially since they reversed the decision so quickly. Watching the story right now on national tv. You can’t buy this kind of advertising.

  12. I agree with MAL and was thinking the same thing … what a way to generate some buzz for their brand and getting some attention.

  13. Its pretty despicable really. Makers was/is having no shortage problems. Overpriced and overrated bourbon.

  14. Come under the heading “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING!”

  15. I’m still seriously concidering dropping them from my list of staple pours in my cabinet. There are too many other very good bourbons out there for the same price or less (Buffalo Trace comes to mind). Shame on you MM. I too tend to believe it was a marketing ploy.

  16. I’m actually seeing the 42% bottles around my area now. They’re mixed in with the regular 45%. I bet the average liquor store employee or customer still wouldn’t know, unless they read or saw the story. It’s a bit ironic that the inferior version might now become a collector’s item!

  17. I like Maker’s but c’mon folks, I believe this was a marketing ploy from the beginning. Did you see how much attention they got in the news? I had friends who know nothing about bourbon talking about it. This was smart and calculated IMO.

  18. I manage a liquor store in Jersey, last year sold over 100 cases of Makers last year. The only place I’ve seen a better bourbon selection was in Louisville when I picked a barrel at Beam. A bar there had a great selection, hey it’s Kentucky. My customers no there bourbon. What terminology you want to us, it’s still watering the product down. Makers did the right decision to leave the recipe alone. Once they had enough juice then what, return to the original proof? I’ve already heard they will be increasing the price, hey that’s what everyone does. Check out Eli Craig, they ran out of 12,18 and now twenty year, next step for them 21 year. the 18 went up 10 dollars a bottle, but still sold

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