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Maker's Mark Sales Grew 44% In Quarter With 42% Controversy

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Maker's Mark had something to cheer from the first three months of 2013, despite weathering intense criticism for tinkering with its bourbon.In February, the Maker's Mark made national headlines with the decision to decrease the alcohol by volume of the bourbon to 42 percent from 45 percent to meet increased demands. After a strong negative response from the bourbon's fans, the Loretto, Ky.-based distillery reversed its decision and restored Maker's to its traditional 45 percent alcohol by volume level.This week, Beam Global announced that Maker's Mark's sales increased 44 percent from January to Marchcompared to the same time period in 2012.It was the largest increase among Beam's "power brands," which includes Jim Beam (-2 percent), Pinnacle (8 percent) and Courvoisier (-29 percent).Beam officials told analysts that the switch to 45 percent and reversal lead tosort of a buying forward from consumers, Quartz reports.But sales were strong going into the first quarter, too. Rob Samuels, Maker's Mark's chief operating officer, said in February that the decision to reduce the alcohol by volume level was done so the distillery could produce more bottles of bourbon to meet demand. ( Samuels insisted that the  change didn't affect the taste.)In February, Samuels told WFPL:

The phones have been ringing off the hook over the last three or four months from most every city in the country where Maker's Mark is not available on the shelf, as far away as California and as close to home as the package store five minutes from the distillery.

No one from Maker's was available for comment on Friday. (Might have something to do with a horse race.) We're awaiting word from Beam Global.    

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Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.