Close this search box.

Bourbon betrayal: Can I still trust you?

Knob Creek adA story broke last week about the customer backlash against Maker’s Mark after the bourbon maker announced that, in order to stretch its supply to meet global demand, it had begun diluting its bourbon—reducing the alcohol content from 90 proof to 84 proof.

It turns out that bourbon shortages are not uncommon. Bill Samuels Jr., the company’s chairman emeritus, said that he presided over shortages in 20 of his 35 years at the helm of Maker’s Mark. (Too bad he didn’t preside over this one.)

Another well-known bourbon maker, Knob Creek, experienced a similar product shortage in 2009 but instead of diluting its product to meet demand, it took out full-page newspaper ads displaying an empty bottle of Knob Creek and the line, “Thanks for nothing.”

The ad went on to explain that, because Knob Creek is so popular, demand has finally outstripped supply. And since the bourbon maker refuses to sacrifice quality by reducing the 9-year aging process for its bourbon, there would likely be isolated product shortages for a number of months until the next batch is ready for bottling. I recall seeing the above ad in the Wall Street Journal during the summer of 2009, appreciating the message, and buying a bottle of Knob Creek within a day or two.

Maker’s Mark’s handling of its own shortage this month had a different effect on me. Rather than endearing me to its brand, it brought to mind the Aesop’s Fable, The Goose With the Golden Eggs. The greedy farmer exploited the goose for his own gain, ultimately killing it. Maker’s Mark’s recent misstep may not kill the brand but it certainly has tainted its reputation among bourbon drinkers and eroded its storied brand promise.

If there is a silver lining in all of this for Maker’s Mark, it’s that it may have less of a product shortage than originally forecast.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
The Revelation Conversation

The Revelation Conversation is Here!