The Maker’s Mark Story

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As I’ve said before, Maker’s Mark was the tipple which brought me to the whisk(e)y table. I ‘cut my teeth’ on it as people say. While it’s no longer my favorite it’s a staple on my bar. So, as I have explained here, I was pleased to see the good folks over at Maker’s introduce a cask strength version earlier this year. However, I was a little surprised as well.

As you have heard (if you haven’t then you are likely very new to the whisk(e)y scene), Maker’s decided over a year ago to reduce the proof of their flagship product to 84 proof (It had always been 90 proof) due to the un-happy marriage of production and popularity. In short, their supplies were not meeting demand.

As you know or can suspect, this was met with anger, dismay, and quite a bit of complaining from the Maker’s fan-base. So, they decided not to cut the proof and instead told their consumers they might not find as much product going forward.

To my knowledge this never happened. I’ve not been in a bar or liquor store which doesn’t have a healthy selection of Makers. In fact, as you know, they went the other way shortly after the controversy and released the aforementioned cask strength product.

So, as I have read reviews and consumed a few bottles of this new product over the past year, I have been left wondering one thing: How did Maker’s Mark, who couldn’t meet demands, all of a sudden continue to meet demands without cutting their proof and add a new product at a higher proof?

I don’t have an answer, but I do have some speculation. Maker’s is a NAS, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky. This means it can be any age as long as it’s at least 2 years old. Maker’s claims their batches are around 6 years old. It varies because they want to keep a consistent flavor (I like it).

Now, I’ve not had a bottle of their regular product since the fiasco so I can’t compare it to how it use to taste. But, I’d be hard-pressed to believe that Maker’s was able to all of a sudden keep up with demand, not water down their product, and release a cask strength version (which can be found at almost any liquor store). Whisk(e)y can’t defy nature and science.

The only answer I can come up with is that their products are no longer an average of 6 years old and are more likely around 4-5 years old. We will probably never know the truth. But, I thought I’d share what’s been troubling my mind about the whole situation and the “solution” which helped ease my mind. If you know more please feel free to leave a comment. Cheers!

*Bonus: I never knew Maker’s Mark looked like a Reuben Sandwich!

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6 thoughts on “The Maker’s Mark Story

  1. Hi Jay,

    Oddly enough, I had a discussion with Bill Samuels, Jr. back in April on the supply and proof question you raised. His explanation was basically two pronged. As you’re likely aware, they had an expansion that effectively doubled the still output of the operation that was initiated in 2002. This took about 2 years to bring on line and for still production to commence. Then there was the aging process, add 6 more years, now we’re at 2010, and, as with most processes, there were missteps and logistical issues to overcome. Basically twice as many barrel warehouses and bottling line capacity issues had to be dealt with. Then there was Bill Jr’s last project as president, Maker’s 46 being added to the mix.

    Basically, this all added up to a slower start than you would have anticipated for the doubling of still output making it to the shelves, all the while there was a pretty consistent 15-20% sales growth year to year taking place. Bill swears it was a temporary pinch in supply due to those factors that they were able to finally able to overcome about a year after the aborted attempt at going 86 proof. There was definitely a pinch in supply in that time, as attested to by my best friend who is a 30 year veteran of spirit sales in the area. For quite a few months time 1.75L bottles were not available at all.

    So now they are upping production again by 50% (essentially building a third copy of the original still) as the sales numbers continue to go ever higher. They are currently Suntory’s biggest growth brand at 17%, year to year in 2015.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the info! I was aware of the expansion. I guess the math does check out on timing. It’s not a big deal yet, at least for me because I’m not going back to MM and am sticking with MMCS which I find to be an awesome product, because it appears the characteristics have not suffered. But, I still wonder if they had to or have to cut down on the age at all. It’s certainly open for them to do so. Thanks for sharing the info!

      Like

  2. Hi Josh,

    Great post and great blog! Its great to read a blogger who writes honestly and listens honestly to the comments.

    Next time you’re in the mood for a Reuben, enjoy a Maker’s Cask Strength instead!

    Cheers,
    Phil

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I too started on Maker’s Mark some 40 years ago. Their slogan

    “My tastes are very simple. I only want the very best of everything.”

    I still enjoy it, but my preference is single malt preferably cask strength.

    Liked by 1 person

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