Maker’s Mark Apologizes; Watery Whiskey Canceled By Customer Outrage

on February 18, 2013 8:53 AM EST

Maker's Mark Apologizes
Maker's Mark apologized for trying to reduce the alcohol content in its popular brand of bourbon. (Photo: Maker's Mark)

Maker's Mark apologized to loyal fans and customers for trying to water down their recipe in order to meet skyrocketing demand for the popular bourbon. The distiller announced last week plans to lower the alcohol content from 90 proof to 84 proof in order to produce more volume during a bourbon shortage caused by robust sales, but now Maker's Mark apologized for the plan and said they won't change a thing.

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"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," the company said in a statement on their website. "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."

Maker's Mark apologized for the move even as some within in the company publicly questioned some of the marketing moves behind the shortage. Bill Samuels Jr., chairman emeritus and son of the founder, tells Lindenberger he doesn't expect the company to raise the price.

"In my 35 years as CEO we had multiple times when we had out of synch supply and demand situations," he said. "More than 20 times. Never once did we go to the pricing tool. Now, I am retired, but we do have a culture around here. And that culture has always been 'Don't abuse your customers.'"

Although Maker's Mark apologized for the move, they also took time to praise fans for their loyalty and feedback. According to Samuels, many customers said they would rather be unable to get Maker's Mark than to get the Maker's Mark apology-brand, watered-down bourbon.

"They've told us that they would rather deal with the occasional supply shortage than have us change their whiskey," he told USA Today.

Some of Maker's Mark's competitors jumped on the blunder before the distillery could reverse its decision. Wild Turkey, for example, took to Twitter and posted: "We distill our bourbons at a lower proof than competitors, allowing us to add less water and preserve more flavor." The tweet was accompanied by a picture of a Wild Turkey 101 bottle with the tag line, "Less water. More flavor."

Maker's Mark's apology on their website thanked fans for their candor, and promised loyal customers that will by business as usual from now on.

"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," Maker's Mark said in the apology.

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