Maker's Mark to restore alcohol content of whiskey
"Our focus was on the supply problem. That led to us focusing on a solution," Bill Samuels said. "We got it totally wrong."
Both Bill and Rob Samuels said customer reaction was immediate. Company officials heard from "thousands and thousands of consumers" that a bourbon shortage was preferable to a change in how the spirits were made, Bill Samuels said.
"They would rather put up with the occasional supply shortage than put up with any change in their hand-made bourbon," Rob Samuels said.
The change in alcohol volume called for the recipe and process to stay the same, except for a "touch more water" to be added when the whiskey comes out of the barrel for bottling, Rob Samuels said.
When production restarts Monday, those plans are off the table, Bill Samuels said.
"We really made this decision after an enormous amount of thought, and we focused on the wrong things," Bill Samuels said.
Maker's Mark is owned by spirits company Beam Inc., based in Deerfield, Ill. Its other brands include Jim Beam bourbon.
Maker's is made at a distillery near the small town of Loretto, 45 miles south of Louisville.
Its bourbon ages in barrels for at least six summers and no longer than seven years before bottling.
The supply shortage at Maker's comes amid growing demand for Kentucky bourbons in general.
Combined Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey sales from producers or suppliers to wholesalers rose 5.2 percent to 16.9 million cases last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, a national trade association that released figures last week. Revenue shot up 7.3 percent to $2.2 billion, it said. Premium brands, generally made in smaller batches with heftier prices, led sales and revenue gains.
Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world's bourbon supply, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association. There are 4.9 million bourbon barrels aging in Kentucky, which outnumbers the state's population.
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