Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is someone watering down your whisky?

Big news in the UK last week was the decision, and then hasty reversal, by Maker's Mark to start diluting their whisky from 45% to 42%.

The chairman of Maker's Mark Bill Samuels Jnr was quoted as saying “demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it”. Which The Converted is translating as "we sold 16.9m cases of bourbon in 2012 and if we water down each bottle a bit, we'll be able to make a load more profit".

I'm pleased to say that The Diplomat's mint julep is safe as Maker's Mark reversed their decision after a large outcry from bourbon drinkers on the internet.

With the shortened ageing times bourbon makers have less of an excuse, but I've wondered in the past how whisky makers who prefer 10yo+ age statements are able to predict demand into the future. Could distillers have predicted the global whisky boom that has happened in the last 5 years? Perhaps it explains the trend towards new whiskies without age statements being released?

I'm not sure any other producers will be rushing to follow Maker's Mark following their PR disaster, but keep an eye out for someone watering down your whisky.


  1. Check your bottle Richie. In Australia our Makers Mark is at 40% already, even less then the attempted lowering to 42%. I ask Mark Gillespie @ Whisky Cast to see if he could ask about the export ABV for Makers Mark and why it is so low to countries like Aus. I suspect it is simply to have a lower tax threshold. None the less ours is of a lower ABV anyway so no loss to us.

    1. I didn't realise the Aussie version was already at 40%. It would be interesting to know if that was done for duty, marketing or sheer cost purposes.

  2. This trend of diluting whisky is accompanied by the disappearance of age statements in the realm of single malts.

    Famous Grouse 30 and 18 yrs have been discontinued. Johnnie Walker stop blending the 18yr old age statement Gold Label and replaced it with an inferior Gold Label that has no age statement and tastes it. The Macallan is moving from age statements to colors much like Johnnie Walker.

    The question is why? I do not work in the industry but I suspect it is a combination of increased profit margins and lack of supply of older whiskies to meet market demand.

    Nice blog fellas!