It started maybe four years ago when I went from being nap-adverse to being nap-prone and thus starting my rapid descent in to Old Man Land in my early thirties. Having already enjoyed wine since my early twenties due to majoring in English Literature, the next step in advanced aging was to gain an appreciation for hard liquors. This took a bit more doing and I mostly blame my former neighbor in San Francisco with her now defunct bar, Koko Cocktails (reborn as Hi-Lo), along with a Swiss friend in Ivory Coast for getting me in to spirits. The former made great craft cocktails and the later made great tropical cocktails, which if you didn’t know is where cocktails originally came from–not the skinny jeaned dump pocket of hipster culture.
With mixed drinks added to my liver damaging arsenal, if I was to proceed in to proper Old Man Land, I would need to start smoking a pipe, but not before developing a taste for one specific liquor that I would feel so strongly about, I would get in a fist fight with someone who dared to question its value to civilization. Being originally from the US, but generally showing little pride in that fact, I found that Bourbon would be my liquor (although Rye is fast supplanting it). Brown liquors made sense in that they’re a lot like wine. They came from Europe, America kicked them in the ass and to a large degree, made them anew.
While I’m not terribly sold on what happens to wine in the US, I do find brown alcohols to be one of the finest things to be born of the Land of Freedom™. And I do have my favorites with Bulleit’s Bourbon as well as their Rye at least worth raising my voice over if not downright fighting for. I’ve never thought much of Maker’s Mark. I place their Bourbon in the same vein as Evan Williams and Four Roses which is to say somewhere below Bulleit, but above Jack Daniels and good for cocktails. So, the announcement that they’re reducing the alcohol I found unfortunate but not something that fractured my soul.
In all honesty, at their core Whiskey (including Tennessee, Bourbon, Rye, Irish, Canadian, Scottish, and Japanese) is the same thing as Vodka and Gin. They’re all spirits distilled from grains. The difference with Whiskey is of course the barrel aging, which is way, as a wine lover, I probably took to it a great deal more than clear alcohols and leaps and bounds more than Rum, which still makes me dry heave on certain levels.
What Maker’s is doing isn’t defiling their Bourbon in theory. According to that alcohol level, it will still be Bourbon whiskey. It’s just that on a perceptual level, it’s ugly. By watering down the bottle, they should also water down the price, but I don’t see that happening. Okay, sure, it will probably taste the same, which is to say, somewhere between Jack and Bulleit in my scale, but in doing this to supposedly keep up with rising demand, it gives the impression that they’re a cocaine dealing cutting his product to make it go further. In other words, you’re not getting your money’s worth. Then again, you’re buying Maker’s, so maybe you are.