Maker’s Mark, a unit of Beam Inc. (NYSE:BEAM), announced last week it planned to water down its iconic bourbon -- to 42 percent, or 84 proof, from 45 percent, or 90 proof, as a way to boost the supply of the liquid gold to meet the rising demand for it. Fans were outraged, and the distiller has apologized for its now-abandoned plan.
It appears fans would rather suffer a lack of Maker’s Mark than see their favorate bourbon recipe changed. Many found the plan to water down Maker’s Mark went against the entire brand.
"For years, they've been selling bourbon by telling people it's better than others -- that it's made carefully and aged carefully by experts," Eric A. Greenleaf, a professor of marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business, told MSN News. "Now they're saying, 'If we water it down, you can't tell the difference.' It runs against positioning they've built in marketplace and leaves customers feeling betrayed."
In response to the criticism, Maker’s Mark announced it would abandon the plan to water down the product in a statement on its website.
Here’s the Maker’s Mark apology in its entirety.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org
"Bill Samuels Jr. Chairman Emeritus email@example.com"