We’ve discussed various whiskey shortages on this site in the past, but never have we been so concerned about as response to a potential discontinuity in supply as what is happening up in Loretto, KY. Maker’s Mark has been bottling 90 proof bourbon since 1959, but the increasing popularity of Kentucky bourbons, particularly wheated ones, has led the distillery to worry about future supply reserves. Instead of futzing with the price or starting an allocation program to determine which retailers can and can’t get a regular allotment of the popular wax-sealed bottles, they decided to change the proof to 84 to increase their throughput by 7%.
In layman’s terms, they’re watering down their whiskey! Now I do that myself, especially when I’m dealing with a hot high proof bourbon like Booker’s or Baker’s. But that is with the intent to open up the aromas and flavors a little bit, not to stretch out the supply. Maker’s Mark has not announced any price reductions, so they’re basically ramming through a price increase since water is pretty darned cheap compared to whiskey.
You know what else you can do other than watering it down if your favorite bourbon is running short of supply? You can buy another bourbon! Especially for fans of wheated whiskeys, Maker’s Mark has been a go-to for years. For those with fatter wallets than me, or you, or you, or you, Pappy Van Winkle is the high-end measuring stick for all wheated whiskeys, nay all bourbons.
Instead, seek out some W.L. Weller Special Reserve, 7-Year-Old, “the original wheated whiskey.” Made from a very similar (almost exactly the same) recipe as Pappy, Weller is an excellent affordable alternative, with the bonus that you can actually find some of the stuff. Both 90 proof and 107 proof versions should be fairly easy to find on the shelves of your favorite liquor store, and it you encounter the rarer 12=year aged edition, snap it up. It’s like Pappy at half price. In fact, there’s some sitting on my bar right now…