Monday, February 11, 2013

Maker's Mark waters down its whiskey and its brand

Maker's Mark announced a couple of days ago that they would be thinning out their whiskey to keep up with global demand.  They go on to say that it tastes the same and their customers can't tell the difference!

Maker's Mark has always been a premium and expensive whiskey.  Parent company Beam Inc. boasts the fact that they only produce a small amount at a time and that each bottle is cared for by hand.

Beam Inc.


Made in batches of less than 1,000 gallons (around 19 barrels at a time)
Every bottle is hand dipped in the signature red wax; no two bottles are alike

So how does a brand that has always celebrated quality and the artisan, make the decision to thin out their stock?  They have separated from their values and principles and decided to chase margins and market share.  

A 3% drop in alcohol by volume doesn't seem like much, but it isn't the size of the change that matters, it is the fact that they have made this decision and chosen this path.  They could have just as easily increased their marketing around their premium quality and superior craftsmanship in a way that increased demand even more and gone from a premium brand to a super premium brand.  

Simon Sinek calls it the celery test.  When you are on a diet and go grocery shopping, does the food you buy help you with your goal of losing weight (celery) or is it just a sweet treat.

When your business is faced with higher demand, you have to ask yourself, does this decision serve our goals and support our values (celery), or is it the business equivalent of a Boston Creme Pie?  The pie tastes great in the short term, but it only makes it harder to achieve your long term goals.

Do your decisions pass the celery test?

For your reference, here is the email sent to Maker's Mark Ambassadors.
Dear Maker’s Mark® Ambassador, 
Lately we’ve been hearing from many of you that you’ve been having difficulty finding Maker’s Mark in your local stores.  Fact is, demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we’re running very low on supply. We never imagined that the entire bourbon category would explode as it has over the past few years, nor that demand for Maker’s Mark would grow even faster. 
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.
Nothing about how we handcraft Maker’s Mark has changed, from the use of locally sourced soft red winter wheat as the flavor grain, to aging the whisky to taste in air-dried American white oak barrels, to rotating our barrels during maturation, to hand-dipping every bottle in our signature red wax. 
In other words, we’ve made sure we didn’t screw up your whisky. 
By the way, if you have any comments or questions, as always, we invite you to drop us a line at [email address] or [email address]. Thanks for your support.  And if you’ve got a little time on your hands, come down and see us at the distillery. 
Rob Samuels
Chief Operating Officer
Bill Samuels, Jr.
Chairman EmeritusAmbassador-at-Large 
[information for unsubscribing from the email list] 
Maker’s Mark Distillery
3350 Burks Spring Road
Loretto, KY, 40037 
Maker’s Mark® Bourbon Whisky and Maker’s 46® Bourbon Whisky. 42% and 47% ABV.
©2013 Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc. Loretto, KY.