Reporting Luke McKinney
The internet is what happens when you connect the subconscious to a satellite network: the global transmission of millions of genitals, and horrible things you wish you’d never discovered (including or inserted into some of the genitals). The internet and alcohol both provoke millions of people to say stupid stuff as publicly as possible, but last week a bourbon company tried something so stupid that even the internet had to hold it it by the shoulders and shout “Stop right there buddy! You’re making a mistake!”
Maker’s Mark publicly humiliated itself, which is weird, because alcohol normally needs to be poured into a person before doing that. They announced that their drink was so popular they were going to water it down. That’s like McDonalds announcing that their burgers are so popular they’re taking up rat-farming. A message sent to Maker’s Brand ambassadors said “… we’ve worked carefully to reduce the alcohol by volume (ABV) by just 3%. This will enable us to maintain the same taste profile and increase our limited supply so there is enough Maker’s Mark to go around…” They didn’t explain that “Maker’s Mark brand ambassador” was about to become as popular as “1945 German ambassador,” because that was implied.
Note the careful phrasing in terms of Alcohol By Volume (ABV), as if they were magically transporting out only the alcohol molecules in some alchemical ceremony. Even if they could do that – which would mean that they were badly misusing the Starship Enterprise – all that would achieve is a few drops of paint stripper. It wouldn’t solve their supply problems, it would just create Maker’s Mark Lite. (Which was what they were planning anyway). They need to extend their stock.
You do that by watering down liquor.
Watering it down so much that the ABV drops by 3%, meaning the total alcohol content by 6.7%. That’s one part in fifteen. In a crate of sixteen bottles, Jim Beam would be selling one bottle of pure water at full price, which is a nice trick if you can manage it, and over a shot of water in another bottle. Which bottle? Whichever one you bought. Because that’s what the plan was: add 50 ml of water to every 750 ml bottle on the shelves. Or, to put it another way, the corporation hocking a good mouthful of spit into anything you buy.
They parsed the problem in terms of supply, demand, growth, and various other words used by shareholders instead of distillers. It was a blatant admission of attitude. When a craft distiller sells out of every single bottle of everything they make, hurray! Success! Make more! But when a board meeting realizes that a revenue stream isn’t being fully exploited they’ll do everything up to and including pissing in their own bottling plant, which, I remind you, was the actual plan.
Distilling is about using spirits to escape the petty problems of the world. This was the exact opposite, letting greed destroy the spirit in every sense of the word.
They claimed that they’d worked with an expert panel of tasters to make sure that the flavor profile wasn’t affected. Listen, guys, it’s even worse when a barman announces that he’s been watering the liquor AND that his customers were too stupid to notice. You get the strong impression that if printing ABV figures on the bottle wasn’t federally required we would never have heard of this. If Maker’s Mark worked at 42%, it would have originally been made at 42%. It’s a cruel reduction of one of the few true answers to life, the universe, and everything we actually have.
In the olden days this would have caused a scattered mass of people to think they’d suddenly become alcoholic, wondering why their drink didn’t seem to work right. But the internet allowed the world of bourbon to rise up and stage a reverse-intervention, alternating between imploring and accusing Maker’s Mark until they promised not to have less alcohol.
But the true tragedy is that they can’t be trusted.
Alcohol makes everyone more honest. A few drams works better than sodium pentothal, and is much more enjoyable. And what we’ve just learned that deep down the Maker’s Mark is really the ink on a balance sheet, not the bottling of divine drink.
Luke McKinney watches the new Halo series and mocks The Craziest Scientific Theories of U.S. Politicians.
Luke previously tried to help a beloved icon from destroying itself with Stop Arnold Schwarzenegger for His Own Good and helped others recover from their alcoholic mistakes in How to Beat Hangovers like a Viking.