Global Demand Forces Bourbon Maker To Change Its Recipe

Beam Inc. is reducing the volume of alcohol in its Maker's Mark brand by 3 percent in order to stretch its dwindling supply.

What's the Latest Development?

Kentucky-based Beam Inc., home of the bourbon brands Maker's Mark and Jim Beam, has announced that it will reduce the volume of alcohol (ABV) in Maker's Mark by 3 percent. Writer Zachary M. Seward, reviewing an e-mail sent from the company to customers, says that a reduction from 45 percent ABV to 42 percent ABV translates to a 6.7 percent decrease in the actual amount of alcohol. In the e-mail, the authors -- descendants of the company's founder -- say that the taste "[is] completely consistent with the taste profile our founder/dad/grandfather...created nearly 60 years ago." 

What's the Big Idea?

Bourbon has become increasingly popular in the US, and now makes up 35 percent of all spirit sales. However, foreign sales are what's really making an impact, with Australia, Germany, and Japan among the strongest markets. Last year Beam warned that it was struggling to keep up with demand for Maker's Mark, and raised prices as well. Seward notes the risk involved in changing a time-honored recipe: "Bourbon connoisseurs often speak in reverent terms about the "taste profile" of their favorite spirits...Adding a little water to the drink is an easy way to increase Beam's margins and do more with less, but at what cost?"

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