Lower-proof bourbon meets demand

Chicago TribuneFebruary 11, 2013 

In response to rapidly increasing demand for bourbon, Maker’s Mark announced it is reducing the amount of alcohol in the spirit to keep pace with consumer demand.

In an email to customers, representatives of the brand said the entire bourbon category is “exploding” and demand for Maker’s Mark is growing even faster. Some customers have reported empty shelves in their local stores, it said.

After looking at “all possible solutions,” the total alcohol by volume of Maker’s Mark is being reduced by 3 percent. Representatives said the change will allow it to maintain the same taste while making sure there’s “enough Maker’s Mark to go around.” It’s working to expand its distillery and production capacity, too.

Maker’s Mark, made by Deerfield, Ill.-based Beam Inc., said it has done extensive testing to ensure the same taste. It says bourbon drinkers couldn’t tell the difference. It also said nothing else in the production process has changed.

Rob Samuels, chief operating officer, said this is a permanent decision that won’t be reversed when demand for bourbon slows down.

Samuels said that bourbon has gone from the slowest-growing spirits category to the fastest in the past 18 months, driven by growth overseas and demand from younger drinkers. An average bottle of Maker’s Mark takes 6 1/2 years to produce, and since the company doesn’t buy or trade whiskey, it’s been impossible to keep up.

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