Maker’s Mark Reverses Decision to Water Down Whiskey

No need to rush out and stock up on your favorite trademark red-wax sealed bourbon.

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Reuters / Keith Bedford

A bottle of Maker's Mark whiskey is pictured in New York May 9, 2012.

No need to rush out and stock up on your favorite trademark red-wax sealed bourbon.

One week after announcing plans to dilute its whiskey, Maker’s Mark has changed course. The Kentucky bourbon company released a statement Sunday reversing its decision and apologizing for disappointing its loyal fans with the decision to reduce alcohol content to keep up with rising global demands.

“We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we’re doing what’s right, this is your brand you told us in large numbers to change our decision,” the statement from chairman emeritus Bill Samuels Jr. and his son and chief operating officer, Rob Samuels, said.

(MORE: Maker’s Mark Waters Down Its Whiskey, and Anger Rises)

“You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.”

Last week’s announcement sparked public backlash over the decision to reduce the alcohol content  of the 90-proof whiskey to 84 proof. As TIME’s Michael Lindenberger reports, taste-maker bartenders, who had been essential to the brand’s word of mouth marketing efforts in the 1980s, were questioning whether to abandon the trademark, red-wax sealed bottle in crafting cocktails.

Cocktail bar general manager Alba Huerta tells TIME, “When you are building a cocktail, you really reach for a higher element of proof as a backbone to stand up against the dilution and other ingredients in the cocktail. A lower proof makes a significant difference.”

The company’s decision left many wondering why simple economics couldn’t lead the brand to merely raise the price rather than committing, what Forbes referred to as, brand suicide. But don’t worry, the latest development may not mean a price increase. Bill Samuels Jr., chairman emeritus and son of the founder, tells Lindenberger he doesn’t expect the company to raise the price.

“In my 35 years as CEO we had multiple times when we had out-of-sync supply and demand situations,” he said. “More than 20 times. Never once did we go to the pricing tool. Now, I am retired, but we do have a culture around here. And that culture has always been ‘Don’t abuse your customers.’”