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Maker’s Mark makes it better


Maker’s Mark got into a heap of trouble when they announced a minor change to their recipe last week.

Of course, it was the good kind of trouble — the kind that only happens when you have millions of loyal fans who care passionately about your company. The kind of fans that care about a company and fight for the company.

So they reversed the decision.

The Lesson: The only right way to handle a scandal is to fix it, fix it quick, and apologize.

We should all be so lucky to have fans who keep us on the right path.

Dear Ambassador,

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,

Bill Samuels, Jr.
Chairman Emeritus,

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  1. Chris Myers February 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Wow, cool. I hadn’t heard that they reversed there decision. The whole “Maker’s lowers the ABV by 3%” story made so much news online – but their “fixing” the issue hasn’t made the rounds, so far as I can tell. Which is a shame. They’re a smart company with good people and products.

    Bourbon consumption has had double-digit growth every year for the last three years. Good problem to have, but still a problem. How do you forecast production and growth with a product that requires sufficient aging? What happens when your product gets crazy popular and your supply isn’t enough, especially when you can’t just make more tomorrow.

    Maker’s had 3 options in their predicament: raise the price, run out of stock, or stretch the supply. Lowering the ABV was simply a way to stretch their supply to meet demand, They saw it as the “least worst” option. They assumed people would respond much worse to raising the price or not being able to find any on the shelf. Personally, I would’ve made the same decision. And I would’ve been wrong too: 3% change in ABV is trivial to a distiller, evidently not so much to the public. People saw it as a Maker’s diluting their brand(which, literally, they were.)

    I think the lesson here is that they would’ve been wise to ask their users/Ambassadors/tweeters their opinion BEFORE they made their decision. Polling your customers on how to deal with a product shortage would be invaluable.

    I hope they get the word out that they haven’t changed a thing. Would be a shame if people still faulted then for something that never even hit the shelves.

  2. Wayne Liew February 23, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Kudos to Maker’s Mark for listening to their customers. Far too often, businesses listen and look at themselves when making a business decision and they never look back, even when a backlash happened.

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