The Maker’s Mark ABV Conundrum
On February 9th, I received the following email from the good people at Maker’s Mark:
Dear Maker’s Mark® Ambassador,
Lately we’ve been hearing from many of you that you’ve been having difficulty finding Maker’s Mark in your local stores. Fact is, demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we’re running very low on supply. We never imagined that the entire bourbon category would explode as it has over the past few years, nor that demand for Maker’s Mark would grow even faster.
We wanted you to be the first to know that, after looking at all possible solutions, we’ve worked carefully to reduce the alcohol by volume (ABV) by just 3%. This will enable us to maintain the same taste profile and increase our limited supply so there is enough Maker’s Mark to go around, while we continue to expand the distillery and increase our production capacity.
We have both tasted it extensively, and it’s completely consistent with the taste profile our founder/dad/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr., created nearly 60 years ago. We’ve also done extensive testing with Maker’s Mark drinkers, and they couldn’t tell a difference.
Nothing about how we handcraft Maker’s Mark has changed, from the use of locally sourced soft red winter wheat as the flavor grain, to aging the whisky to taste in air-dried American white oak barrels, to rotating our barrels during maturation, to hand-dipping every bottle in our signature red wax.
In other words, we’ve made sure we didn’t screw up your whisky.
By the way, if you have any comments or questions, as always, we invite you to drop us a line at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your support. And if you’ve got a little time on your hands, come down and see us at the distillery.
Chief Operating Officer
Bill Samuels, Jr.
Eight days later, I received yet ANOTHER email from the good people at Maker’s Mark. Here it is:
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.
Chief Operating Officer,
Bill Samuels, Jr.
To say that these emails sparked some controversy across the interwebz would be a HUGE understatement! Rather that go into a bunch of detail, I will simply point you in the direction of various Whisk(e)y luminaries to share what they had to say about this change from Maker’s Mark:
- Lew Bryson of Whisky Advocate wrote two posts on John Hansell’s blog. Click here to read what he had to say after the 1st email, and then click here to read what he had to say after the 2nd email.
- Chuck Cowdery wrote three posts about this change/no change on his blog. Click here for the 1st post, click here for the 2nd post, and click here for the 3rd post.
- Sku’s Recent Eats went the hilarious route via two posts. Click here for the first post, and click here for the second post.
- Click here to read what Sean Fousheé of the Whisky Marks blog had to say.
- And last but not least, click here to read what was said on Instagram when I posted part of the first email on my photo feed.
And what do I think about all this? Here is what I had to say in response to a recent post on the Nobler Experiment blog:
I’ve always been a whisky lover and Maker’s Mark was the next step in my Bourbon progression 20+ years ago when I was a Grand Dad and Ginger Ale kind of guy. That being said, I have pretty much ignored the brand once I moved on to other whiskies. Nothing wrong with Maker’s, but there is better and more interesting out there.
As far as this ABV business, my neighbor was a big Jack Daniels fan until they too started watering it down. The more whiskies you try, the more you realize that potency matters. I’m guessing that all of this brand ambassador email business was part publicity stunt. The public and media outcry was pretty boisterous and it definitely brought attention to the brand. The question is, will this nonsense hurt the brand?
Wild Turkey Introduces Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel
LAWRENCEBURG, KY (February 20th, 2013) – When it comes to whiskey making in the United States, Jimmy Russell and his son Eddie are America’s bourbon aristocracy. After an incredible 90 years combined experience distilling award-winning whiskey, the two are rolling out one of their richest and most flavorful bourbons to date: Russell’s Reserve® Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. This much anticipated bottling at a take-no-prisoners 110 proof is non- chill filtered, resulting in an unparalleled burst of flavor in every sip. As the crowning glory of America’s famed Wild Turkey bourbon family, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel promises to not only be the choice for bourbon connoisseurs, but it will also be what Jimmy and Eddie reach for time and time again. As they say in Lawrenceburg, “Our experience guarantees yours.”
What makes Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel unique is not only its high proof, but the fact that the whiskey bypasses the chill-filtration process. Chill-filtration is a common process whereby the whiskey is chilled at temperatures below freezing and is passed through an absorption filter thus removing fatty acids and other flavor contributors such as esters and proteins. By avoiding the chill-filtration process, the whiskey is bottled with more flavor compounds and a deeper color which is denoted by an impressive haze when ice or chilled water is added.
Every expression of Russell’s Reserve – both the Bourbon and rye Whiskey – is matured in only the deepest number 4 or “alligator” charred American white oak barrels to ensure the richest flavor and color. Jimmy and Eddie insist on this char level and are among only a handful of whiskey distillers who use it. The best aged whiskey barrels are hand selected by this legendary pair themselves and only from the center cut of the rick house – since that’s where the optimal maturation occurs. Adamant about quality, the Russell’s will only use the natural, weather-driven process for maturation – never air conditioned or heated “because it’s the right thing to do.”
“This is Bourbon at its best,” declares Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller. “What is incredibly special about the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is that each barrel has its own personality, but still captures the rich, creamy toffee vanilla style of Russell’s Reserve. This bottling celebrates what we love about Russell’s Reserve, but takes it to another level.”
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel delivers a burst of intense vanilla and hints of burnt orange, along with tastes licorice and anise seed, on the palate, culminating with a rich and long finish.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (750ml) will be available nationwide at specialist liquor stores priced at $49.99. It will also be available in select bars and restaurants specializing in fine whiskies.
Coming Soon: Pennsylvania 6, An American Brasserie, To Open In Midtown Village
PHILADELPHIA, PA - This March, Pennsylvania 6 (PE6) (114 South 12th Street, 267-639-5606), an American brasserie, will open its doors in bustling Midtown Village. PE6, aesthetically modeled after the dining establishments of the 1930s, will serve dishes inspired by seasonal and local ingredients in a sophisticated yet approachable setting. The two-story, 80-seat space will feature a pristine raw bar, a striking centerpiece cocktail bar, handsome marble and dark wooden accents and luxurious leather seating.
“The name PE6 is borrowed from New York City’s iconic Hotel Pennsylvania, a post-prohibition hotspot, whose original working telephone number was PE6-5000,” says Gary Cardi, one of four co-owners who also include Chris Coco, Brian Harrington, and Frank Falesto. “We want our guests and neighbors to feel that same energy and camaraderie that flowed through the hotel during those vivacious decades.”
Chef Mark Plessis will focus his menu on local ingredients and apply classic techniques and international flavor combinations to his artfully composed plates. A delicious assortment of elevated appetizers, flatbreads, salads, sandwiches and burgers, and hearty meat- and fish-centered entrees will stud the menu. A fresh-from-the-sea raw bar will host up to 12 varieties of oysters as well as shrimp and lobster for shellfish cocktails
To complement Chef Plessis’ dishes, an approachable list of classic, handmade cocktails will be offered. Beer steward Andy Farrell, who oversees the extensive craft lists at two of the city’s best places for beer, City Tap House and Field House, will carefully choose seven high end craft varieties to fill the draught handles at PE6.
Born in France, Chef Plessis moved to the U.S. at a young age. He grew up in Kentucky and later attended the New England Culinary Institute. He has cooked in top restaurants in New Orleans, Atlanta and Chicago. Chef Plessis moved to Philadelphia in 2006 to take the position as Chef de Cuisine of XIX (Nineteen) Restaurant at Philadelphia’s remarkable Hyatt at The Bellevue. While at XIX, the restaurant received “Three Bells: Excellent” from Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan. Also, Philadelphia magazine placed them in the Top 50 Restaurants list and also awarded them “Best Brunch.”
The restaurant will exude elegance with its plush red leather banquettes, white Carrera marble-topped tables and bars, rich-colored walls that will pop against panels of white subway tiling and antique mirrors and cocktail bar shelving. Guests seated on the second floor will be joined by the likes of the most famous faces of the 40’s and 50’s including Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall and Marlon Brando. These icons will become part of the scene at PE6 as enlarged photos of their most iconic moments together will deck the walls.
Owners Cardi, Coco, Harrington and Falesto are also the operators of several other restaurant concepts including PE6 NYC, City Tap House, Field House, Mission Grill, and Public House, with 12 locations including four in the region in Philadelphia, PA; New York City, NY and Oxon Hill, MD. Since opening their first location in 2005, Public House has offered upscale American cuisine in a fun, sophisticated setting that is equally appropriate for a meal with friends or a beer at the bar during the big game.
PE6 will be open for dinner seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Weekend brunch will be served shortly after opening. For more information about PE6, like them on Facebook.
Jura Launches 1977 Vintage
Jura distillery has added a new, limited-edition vintage expression to its collection – the 1977.
This uniquely crafted vintage takes its name from the Gaelic word for the Yew tree, which once sprawled across the entire island of Jura. Translated as ‘Juar’, the Yew tree has long been associated with immortality and regeneration, with some even believing it gives access to the “otherworld”.
Filled to cask in 1977, this vintage release was originally matured in three first fill bourbon casks before being finished in a ruby port pipe for 12 months. Each of the 498 bottles has absorbed the character and colour that only comes with careful aging.
The 1977 vintage is presented in a solid oak box, with each box hand-crafted individually by Scottish-based cabinet maker, John Galvin.
The whisky is sweet, fruity and warm amber in colour. The nose provides subtle notes of peach melba, creamy caramel, ripe sweet pineapple and maple syrup, giving way to the tastes of crushed pear, passion fruit, kiwi and sweet apricots.
Jura 1977 is bottled at 46% ABV and available to buy from www.jurawhisky.com or from specialist whisky retailers priced at £600 RRP.
Here is what Willie Cochran, Jura distillery manager, has to say about this new expression:
“The 1977 is a perfect mix of amber and gold shades – a quality which is only achieved through age. Complemented by an enticing scent and soft sweet flavours, Juar is a real treat for all whisky lovers.
“Each of the lucky 498 buyers of this whisky will also receive their own hand-carved box, each one a testament to the craft and expertise of John Galvin. We’re proud to collaborate with someone who takes craft as seriously as we do.”