The Bourbon brand has hit the headlines this week

The Bourbon brand has hit the headlines this week

Who would have thought that lowering the abv of a Bourbon would provoke so much reaction? Beam will no doubt have been expecting some kind of response to cutting Maker's Mark alcohol content to 42%, announced this week, but possibly not the scale that has emerged.

Even Time magazine has had its say on the matter, noting that the response has been "lightning fast", thanks to our old friend Twitter. The magazine quoted Alba Huerta, general manager of cocktail bar Anvil in Houston, Texas, as saying: "I spent all day talking about this on Twitter when it exploded. I am afraid they are diluting their brand."

Maker's Mark seemed to sense the debate may be getting out of its control, so on Monday chairman Bill Samuels Jr, son of Maker's Mark founder, took to the company's own website to tackle the twitterers.

One of the main concerns was the idea that the company is "watering down" the product. This is true, but as Samuels pointed out "all Bourbon brands are cut with water to achieve the desired proof for bottling".

It did not stop The Daily Telegraph running a story under the headline 'Maker's Mark goes a little heavy on the water'. The paper also chose a tweet to illustrate some of the online reaction, which said: "Congratulations on shattering your image/branding by changing your signature product, your [sic] going to lose a ton of patrons."

Meanwhile, The Atlantic focussed on who was to blame for the messing with Maker's Mark. It's headline suggested it is Japan, Beam and drinkers themselves. It flagged that Beam executives have said that Japan, Germany and Australia are strong markets for the brand.

The bottom line is: to meet global demand the company is having to make stocks stretch further. But The Atlantic concludes: "Adding a little water to the drink is an easy way to increase Beam's margins and do more with less, but at what cost? Some customers, of course, prefer their whiskey over ice or with a splash of soda, but they would surely say that watering down the drink is their prerogative alone."

On the other hand, the website BuzzFeeds gave seven reasons why the news shouldn't have caused outrage - including the fact Beam didn't raise the price of the whiskey. 

Who's to say Beam execs won't be secretly rubbing their hands together at all this unexpected exposure for the brand?