After thousands of bourbon drinkers voiced their complaints about the announcement from Maker’s Mark, the company has reversed its decision and has jettisoned plans to dilute their recipe.
As revelers party on Bourbon Street in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, bourbon drinkers around the world have no cause for celebration.
While global demand for bourbon, is up, way up, supply is seemingly short. So announced the top shelf bourbon distiller, Maker’s Mark.
The company issued a statement that it must dilute its recipe to keep up with increased global demand.
The spirit company will start diluting it’s liquor 3 percent from 90 proof to 84 proof.
What’s fueling this worldwide thirst for bourbon?
Anchor Marco Werman, talks to bourbon expert Tom Fischer about this sudden global interest in this American spirit.
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Marco Werman: For the average consumer, it’s not just what you put on your fork, it’s also what’s in the glass. Take bourbon. The name may have come from France, but for whiskey lovers it’s the classic American spirit. It’s the official booze of the US Congress, in fact, and there are laws here about how to make the stuff. Lately there’s been an uptick in bourbon sales around the world, so much so that distiller Maker’s Mark recently announced that they had to dilute their recipe to meet global demand. Tom Fischer is a bourbon aficionado and the creator of BourbonBlog.com.
Tom Fischer: I was surprised. I have not seen a whiskey do this yet.
Werman: Isn’t this kind of commercial suicide?
Fischer: Well, I guess that’s yet to be seen. I’m told that the Maker’s Mark at 42 percent alcohol, versus 45, should probably be on the shelves in the next few weeks.
Werman: When did bourbon first start to make it behind the bar abroad?
Fischer: I know that it’s gotten more popular the last ten years or so, and the turn back to the pre-Prohibition popularity of cocktails is another element that I think that has added to that interest in bourbon and the interest in Americana. But I think it’s also the flavor. Bourbon’s a very approachable alcohol. It’s very easy to mix, it’s very easy to drink straight. There’s a lot of complexities, there’s a lot of differences between bourbon.
Werman: What are the big export markets now for bourbon?
Fischer: Well, Australia’s a big one, Japan is huge. Europe, Britain, just about anywhere alcohol is sold, bourbon is pretty popular. But I would say Europe and Australia and Japan are the biggest. American whiskey is the fastest-growing category as far as exports in the world.
Werman: Do you think Maker’s Mark just did not anticipate the worldwide popularity of bourbon?
Fischer: Well, I think that a lot of brands are suffering the same challenge. Wild Turkey has added to their production, Jim Beam has, and you see small craft distilleries like, for example, Breckenridge Distillery in Breckenridge, Colorado. They’re making a really fine bourbon. There’s some bourbons being made in Texas, and New York. So bourbon doesn’t have to be made in Kentucky, and because bourbon has become so popular, small craft distilleries are making it all over the country.
Werman: It anybody outside of this country trying to make their own bourbon? And have you tasted one that ranks up?
Fischer: You can’t actually legally call it bourbon if it’s made outside the US. To be made a bourbon, it has to be made in the US. But, there are companies that are making some very fine whiskies that are using similar approaches to bourbon, I would say. But I don’t think anyone has really gone for that market. They haven’t said, we’re going to make a bourbon but call it something else, call it a bourbUN, just to confuse people.
Werman: You’ve got a glass there with you right now?
Fischer: I do.
Werman: Take a little pull on it and tell us what you’re tasting.
Fischer: If I breathe, you can actually hear me nosing it, right?
Werman: That’s a nose.
Fischer: Well, on this one I’m getting some nice cinnamon flavors.
Werman: And let’s be clear. No water, no ice, right?
Fischer: I usually drink mine neat. I like bourbon neat.
Werman: Tom Fischer, a bourbon aficionado, and the creator of BourbonBlog.com. Thanks so much. Cheers!
Fischer: It’s been great chatting with you.
Werman: By the way, there is one place in the world that won’t be affected by this announcement from Maker’s Mark–Australia. Bourbon there is already 40 percent. A bit weaker, sure, but that doesn’t dilute the enjoyment of one bourbon lover, Matt Rock, a Cajun musician from Rosebud, Australia.
Matt Rock: Just love it down south there, you know, sort of all the way from Kentucky down to Mississippi, and I just love the culture and the people and the food and the music. And of course the bourbon.
Werman: Diluted or not, he’s in love with bourbon and with the American South. We wondered if all this global interest in American whiskey has resulted in new ways to drink bourbon. What do you think? Ice or no ice? Soda water? Coke? Hey, it’s a question, not an order. Tell us how you take your bourbon at TheWorld.org.
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