Feb 22, 2013

The Business of Bourbon

My parents were Scotch drinkers. Which meant that if I ever wanted to have a few shots of liquid courage before going out I either had to grow a fondness for scotch or figure out some way to get into their unopened vodka bottle without being noticed. To make a long story short, my Dad approached me a few years ago expressing his embarrassment when he poured his friend a vodka soda only to have his friend politely comment on the lack of actual vodka in the soda. Now who in their right mind would've thought my Dad still would have had that same bottle of vodka that was watered down weekend after weekend in 1989? We both laughed about it. That's all we really could do.

Remember New Coke?  I always question brands and their ulterior motives - even if in reality they don't have one. Last week when I heard that Maker's Mark had 'underestimated' the demand for their bourbon five years ago, (barreling less of it for the five year aging process), and had in turn decided to water down future batches, (to ensure supply met demand), the first thing I smelled was foul play. To make matters worse, to state that no one would even know the alcohol content had been lowered from 90 to 84 proof, (an overall decline of 7% in alcohol), the company, that thought it was being transparent, actually made it sound as if Maker's Mark drinkers were without palette and therefore it was without consequence if they watered the booze down. In no way am I accusing Maker's Mark of anything dirty, (no publicity is bad publicity), however the Maker's Mark brand equity is at stake and I find it hard to believe a company could be so blatantly dumb unaware of the damage such a move could have on that equity.

Always the entrepreneur, I'd planned to head right to the liquor store to stock up on 90 proof Maker's Mark for resale at a later date. But wait, could this move on my part actually be the desired end result of a marketing tactic?

The Satanic Majesty's Request