Thursday, February 14, 2013

Some Calm Thoughts About the Maker's Mark Proof Change

Now that we've all had a few days to settle down, a few reflections on the Maker's Mark proof change.

All of the producers have put themselves into a bit of box with the 'nothing ever changes' claim, because when they do change something, they have to hide it or spin it, as Maker's is doing now.

Maker's has never been about a particular proof point. It's not like they ever ran a lot of ads touting 90 as the best proof.

The claim that's it's about 'making sure there's enough to go around,' is a bit insulting. Watering whiskey is an age-old way for the seller to keep more and give the customer less. It's the equivalent of a price increase. Who's kidding who?

It's still Maker's Mark and if you love Maker's Mark, you're cutting off your nose to spite your face if you stop buying it because of this.

They still haven't answered the question about why they didn't avert this by expanding the distillery when they had the chance.


Unknown said...

The snarky remarks left by a couple of the other big distilleries on their Facebook pages have also been disappointing given their history of dropping proof on big-name bottles.
MM at least had the decency to warn customers of the change. Still, they need to answer your question about why they didn't address this with expansion.

NMissC said...

I really thought your prior post (or perhaps in comments?) definitively answered the question about why they did this instead of expanding the distillery-- this costs nothing and is instant (turn on the tap) while expanding the distillery is a major capital project and takes lots of time-- you have to finance it, build it (those are the short hauls) and then wait for the barrels to mature.

My initial reaction was to wish they wouldn't dilute but think general reactions were overreactions.

Thanks for the (as always) thoughtful posts and concrete information.

Anonymous said...

i feel that makers over sold itself in the oversea markets and now we american drinkers are going to have to pay for it. i like makers for twenty years or more but when there is weller's three wheaters, i just let makers go.

Alex said...

Sigh. Not gonna over-react here, so Maker's Mark is still on my shelf and buy-list. Still, there's no disguising the fact we just got handed a price increase.

Reminds me of the old saying, "Dont pee down my back and tell me it's raining."

Anonymous said...

Makers is a great brand but it's not an incredibly nuanced bourbon. I use it for Old Fashions. In the future, I'll use less soda. Still, I''m not getting as much product for my money.

Working in the PR field, I've learned that you should always be truthful with the media but tell your side of the story. The Samuels "I screwed up" line is an insult to our intelligence. They needed to be up front about their move. e

Tim Dellinger said...

Everyone who is complaining about the change should be required to pass a blind taste test proving that they can accurately discriminate between the higher proof and the lower proof before I take them seriously.

ESJ said...

From the standpoint of the producer, this is a price increase, pure and simple. More bottles per barrel, sold at the same price yields higher sales and profit. But from the consumer standpoint, it is a different product, though admittedly slightly. When the size of an orange juice carton goes from 64 oz. to 59 oz., I can still buy more juice. But I cannot un-dilute whiskey to raise the proof.

I know I will not be able to discern a taste difference between 'new' Maker's and the original. But I don't think there is any denying that tradition and emotion play some part in a purchase decision.

So the next time I'm standing in the spirits shop, I'm probably going to buy something I haven't tried before.

Greg said...

I think Chuck is right, the biggest question still hasn't been answered. What is the long-term plan for the Maker's Mark brand?

Even if they had a new distillery today, it would be 2018 before they actually bottle anything from it. Maker's is still a growing brand, and there's a limit to how far they can kick the can down the road with regards to proof.

Do they really think that lowering the proof to 84 or even 80 will allow them to distribute enough whiskey without increasing production? I think the math says otherwise.

hotcrab said...

Chuck -
I think you are missing the point here by focusing on production capacity.

Increasing food prices + the drought last year pretty much means there's not enough corn to go around here. All the production capacity in the world doesn't change that.

Chuck Cowdery said...

No U.S. distiller has trouble getting enough corn. There is no corn shortage. And since the price of corn has very little impact on the price of whiskey, rising corn prices have little relevance either. There may not be enough corn to 'go around,' but the distilleries are fine because they can afford the going rate. The price of corn has a lot more to do with the cost of beef than it does with the cost of bourbon.

Jeffitaph said...

I prefer the W.L. Weller 12 year old anyway. Larceny is not half-bad either. Plenty of options out there for those who like wheaters.

jdl said...

Chuck, did you see where Makers has reversed their decision to lower the proof? I am surprised that we didn't get the chance to try the new stuff.

Spank That Donkey said...

How can you be certain that the availability, and high price of corn is not an issue in a product whose main ingredient potentially is corn?

Chuck Cowdery said...

Maybe I'm wrong. We'll have to wait and see.