HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >


Maker's Mark with less alcohol

To keep up with international demand - Maker's Mark is taking its bourbon from 90 proof to 84 proof (http://qz.com/52478/makers-mark-water...).

Big deal? No deal?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Many whiskey drinkers dilute their potion with tap water, many others drink their whiskey with ice. These drinkers will probably not notice much difference in taste. For Maker's Mark, however, it gives them the opportunity to increase the amount of water that they are selling the customer while at the same time decrease the amount of revenue they pass on the the government. I find it hard to believe that much of this savings will be passed on to the retail customer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bcc

      If it's anything like when Wild Turkey 101 did the same thing but diluted it to 81 proof instead, they kept the price the same.

      The big problem is that they can only sell now what they started making 4 years ago.


    2. My humble recommendation to MM drinkers: switch to OWA. A better wheated bourbon, higher proof, cheaper. Problem solved.

      6 Replies
      1. re: tomjb27

        You forgot to mention is tastes a lot better.

        1. re: ncyankee101

          Agreed, although I did opine it is better, just didn't specify taste as the reason.

          1. re: tomjb27

            Ah - I may have been half asleep when I posted that. I guess i took "higher proof" to be why you meant it was better.

          1. re: rexster314

            No joke. To go OT here, FWIW, it is a PITA when people use acronyms, IMHO.

            1. re: rexster314

              LOL @ Troy.

              OWA = Old Weller Antique. 107 proof, a few bucks cheaper than Maker's, and as others have noted, much tastier.

          2. Maker's Mark did this because of high demand? Well, the change will certainly lower demand, at least it will in my house

            2 Replies
            1. re: jbuttitta

              +1 so I'm paying them to water down my liquor - isn't that what the kids do after they snuck a little?

              1. re: jbuttitta

                High demand from places such as Japan and Germany where (apparently) bourbon is relatively new. No long standing customer base, most likely no real notice, and the ability to sell it for far more than in the US.

                I've lived in Jerusalem for a while, and the prices that are asked for bourbon are always shocking. And anymore more "rare" such as Wild Turkey - uff.

              2. NPR did a story on it this evening -- almost 3-1/2 minutes long. You can click on this link: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013...

                1. Best line in the NPR story: "My initial reaction was, that's how bourbons that are not premium brands would deal with it," says Jason Falls, a marketing professional who has worked with Maker's Mark in the past.

                  1. Just to add my theory to the chorus (and it’s not a particularly original theory): At this point, the contents in a bottle of Makers are far less important than the brand itself. Makers has become the de facto premium American whiskey at most places that sell booze, from the airport lounge to the casual happy hour bar to the sports bar to the chain restaurant to the dance club. At most of those places you have Beam White Label, Jack Daniels No. 7, and Makers. Yes, there are a smaller number of places that pride themselves on their numerous whiskey offerings, and at those places, Makers will not have pride of place, but at the majority of places that sell booze, it’s the brand to call for when you want to call for a “better” brand. They advertise more aggressively than their competitors in the same niche, they sponsor more aggressively, and it shows in terms of the strength of the brand identity among the broad spectrum of drinkers. Whatever kind of backlash they may get from the minority of serious bourbon drinkers simply isn't going to affect them, and most folks who call for Makers at a bar or pick up a bottle at the ABC store won’t notice the difference. Factor in that it's always been bottled at 80 proof for the more lucrative international market and it all makes a lot of sense.

                    Also, for the first time in a long time, I’m thinking about going out and buying a bottle of Makers Mark, mostly as a novelty since the old bottling is not long for this world. I wonder what kind of short-term sales spike they might receive from this?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                      I don't know if you went out and bought a bottle of the "old" stuff, but of course it will now not be a novelty. However there is a novelty out there to be had. I was in a store in Louisville, KY on Thursday, and an employee there showed me 1.75L bottles on the shelf that were 84 proof. Well actually, on the side of the label, where it has always said

                      Fully Matured
                      alcohol 45% by volume
                      (Ninety Proof)

                      the label only had the first two lines (reading 42%, of course), and no third line, so it actually did not say the "proof".
                      The gentleman said that they had also received small bottles of the same, lower-proof stuff. Maybe pints and half-pints or something? I don't recall, but I know that it wasn't in the regular 750ml size.

                    2. I think the "increased demand" excuse is mostly B.S. and that it's no coincidence that this comes on the heels of the intro of their 46 product. People who care will or have already switched to the "upscale" version
                      (94 proof, fwiw) and those who don't or aren't paying attention will now pay more for less of the original. A win-win for Maker's.

                      1. Y'know, somehow brands like Pappy Van Winkle do quite well while being difficult to obtain and never feel the need to water themselves down to stretch their product out.

                        Whether it tastes the same or not, I'll never buy Maker's again.

                        1. sku? sku? Where are you? We rely on your for your whiskey knowledge!

                          I am always disappointed to see proof drop. Yes there is the de facto price inflation. But lower proof means that it is less useful in cocktails. Often I look for a higher proof main spirit to make up for low (or no) alcohol ingredients, such as citrus, wine, amari, etc.

                          If you like your whiskey with a touch of water, you can just not add any (or not as much). But what if you like it bottle-strength? The experience is lost.
                          www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: EvergreenDan

                            Everything you say is true, but what if -- hypothetically, of course -- Makers' Mark was introduced at 84 proof. Would it have become as popular? Would people still would have embraced it?

                            Thread drift (slight): I don't recall any "outcry" of protest when (virtually) EVERY Scotch switched from 86.8° to 80° (IIRC, only Famous Grouse resisted the change -- at least for several years), nor when every bottling dropped the age statements from 8 Years Old to <nothing> . . .

                            For those not old enough to remember, Cutty Sark, J&B, Dewar's, White Horse, Johnnie Walker Red, Famous Grouse -- all were 8 year old Scotch whiskies until the early 1970s.


                          2. Well it looks like they've changed their mind. I wonder how much damage was done to the brand into US …

                            6 Replies
                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Good now no MM fans will jump ship to the brands I like and drive up the price.

                                  1. re: ncyankee101

                                    Great point! Let's keep Old Weller Antique a steal.

                                    I found this article about the economics behind Makers Mark decision (and reversal) very interesting:


                              1. re: thimes

                                No damage at all; I think it was a great PR move. The brand got a ton of press and attention that it otherwise wouldn't have.

                                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                  No damage - except for this ex-MM buyer. I'm switching to Old Weller Antique (if I can find it) or some other bourbon. Those MM games have turned me off their product for good.

                              2. This is not the first time MM has tampered with their product. For those who could order it through the military Class 6 stores, or lived in Kentucky, there was also Makers Mark Gold wax. I remember it being in excess of 100 proof and a very fine sipping whiskey. And only in 750ml bottles at a very premium price.

                                Now only a memory.

                                  1. re: bcc

                                    Woohoo! Haha, Makers Mark is still pretty rare where I currently live - but it is nice to know that it's not changing.