Five years ago, some distillers put some whiskey in some barrels. Every year since, bourbon has only become more and more sought after. So demand grew, but the small batch of barrels did not increase — what was barreled remained barreled, come what may. This year, Maker’s Mark took stock of what they had and realized it wasn’t enough.
There’s a few routes they could have gone from here. They could have wandered down Pappy’s trail and simply said “that’s it, that’s all” until newer barrels were appropriately aged. But Maker’s isn’t Pappy’s. The van Winkles can do this because they produced a damn good, high end bourbon, with a taste people deem worth a $200+ price tag or an ebay bidding war. Maker’s is good whiskey. But it isn’t some superb, transcendent liquor. So that’s out.
They instead chose to follow a path forged by Jack Daniels in the 80’s — to dilute their whiskey, lowering the proof from 90 to 84. Maybe JD got away with it then, but you can’t do a damn thing in 2013 without impassioned feedback being tweeted, blogged, facebooked, instagrammed, vined, pathed, whatevered right back to you — and the roar was swift and unfavorable. How dare Maker’s Mark water down our whiskey, etcetera, etcetera.
Listen, there’s just not enough. If you want Maker’s Mark, you can either have slightly diluted Maker’s Mark, or no Maker’s Mark at all. But why do you even want Maker’s Mark? Once upon a time, bars would stock only a few bottles of whiskey, and Maker’s was the staple bourbon. But when the interest in bourbon swelled, an outpouring of new, intriguing, and diverse bourbons cropped up. So go for them. Preserve what’s left of Maker’s supply. If the worst thing to come from this is that you find a new bourbon, it’s not all bad. Remember, the more bourbon you drink this year, the more whiskey will be barreled up for years to come.