It wasn't quite Coke versus New Coke, but the recent decision by Maker's Mark to reformulate the bourbon by lowering alcohol content caused plenty of uproar in the booze world.
Now, in response to the backlash, the Beam Inc.-owned brand is reversing the decision, saying in a statement released Sunday that it will keep Maker's at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof) "just like we've made it since the very beginning."
"We have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans," Maker's Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels said. "We're humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker's Mark. While we thought we were doing what's right, this is your brand -- and you told us in large numbers to change our decision. You spoke. We listened. And we're sincerely sorry we let you down."
The reversal comes just a few days after news spread last week of the move to lower alcohol content to 42%. The reformulation was in response to a supply shortage caused by growing demand. The laws of supply and demand dictate that a simple price increase could've solved that problem, but the brand maintained that it didn't want to "price Maker's Mark out of reach."
But fans didn't buy it, based on social media backlash and negative news stories carrying headlines that stated that Maker's was "watering down its bourbon."
In today's statement, the brand did not address pricing, only saying that "the unanticipated dramatic growth rate of Maker's Mark is a good problem to have, and we appreciate some of you telling us you'd even put up with occasional shortages. We promise we'll deal with them as best we can, as we work to expand capacity at the distillery."
Will fans give the brand credit for acting so quickly to reverse the decision? Or will drinkers remain pissed that Maker's even considered it in the first place?
Time will tell, but the initial reaction seems positive. After Maker's posted its statement on Facebook, it drew 15,730 likes within just a couple hours an 2,386 comments, most of them positive. Said one fan: "This is how a company should be run!! Love you guys even more now!!"
And another: "Great marketing. If people didn't get upset you make more money per bottle. People upset, all types of free advertising you reverse your call and you look like you hear the people. Well played."