Bourbon & Business: Making the Mark


This week I heard a particularly interesting story from one of my co-workers while hanging around the proverbial water cooler. Mike, a gentleman who I discovered loves a good glass of whiskey even more than I, explained to me the recent changes that were scheduled to take effect at Makers Mark, a famous bourbon producer located in the heart of Kentucky. These “changes” had to do with altering the original formula by lowering the alcohol-by-volume (ABV) level. This tweak to the recipe was being made since MM had such high demand and limited production, so in essence, watering down the batches would allow them to ultimately make more product to distribute. Mike, as I quickly realized, was not your occasional whiskey consumer. He loves great whiskey and he absolutely loves Maker’s Mark.

Not wanting to see his favorite whiskey change in any way, Mike composed an email straight to the head honcho of MM Bill Samuels, Jr. and let him know exactly how he felt about the announcement. Thinking little about the email after he sent it since Mike felt he was venting about what seemed inevitable at that point, he was shocked when he received an email back from Bill himself explaining, in great detail, the reason for the changes and the reassurance that the great, familiar flavor wouldn’t change. Although Mike appreciated the direct response to his concerns, he didn’t back down and replied with his own reasons for why those changes are still changes to an already amazing product that in his mind leads the bourbon industry. Mike and Bill went back and forth once more before shortly after their last communication, Bill Samuels, Jr. and MM decided to rethink their alteration and announced that they’d keep their product just the way it was.

Mike and the rest of his bourbon brethren let their voices be heard, and a wise company like Maker’s Mark listened and changed the way they operate to please what actually put and keeps them in business, their customers. I applaud companies like MM that can swallow any pride or embarrassment and admit when they’ve made a mistake.

By the way, weeks after the announcement Mike unexpectedly received ANOTHER email from Bill Samuels, Jr. personally inviting him to a special tasting at their facility. While at this tasting, Bill declared Mike an official Maker’s Mark “ambassador”. If you ask me, that’s a top-shelf move! Phew, writing this blog sure was a lot of work…I could use a drink! 😉