When Maker’s Mark Isn’t

UPDATE, 7/29: Click to read about further developments — including the name of the bar — in my latest post.

Last week a bourbon-loving acquaintance called me at the office to tell me about his previous night’s activities. He’d gone to a popular Center City bar — one that’s been around for years — to watch the Phillies game and have a couple of drinks with a friend. They both ordered Maker’s Mark, neat, and he knew there was a problem immediately based on the color of the liquid alone. Then they took a sip. “They poured out of a Maker’s bottle, but there’s no way it was Maker’s Mark,” he told me. “It was disgusting.”

So last Friday I dutifully went to the bar during my lunch break and ordered a Maker’s Mark, neat. Sure enough, my glass was filled with an impostor that tasted more like something from Banker’s Club or Jacquin’s than from a small-batch distillery in Kentucky. The smell, the look, the taste, the mouthfeel. Everything was wrong.

Still, I’m not exactly a big bourbon drinker, so I wasn’t satisfied relying on just my palate. I ordered more “Maker’s,” surrepetitiously dumped it into a container that I just happened to have brought with me, and proceeded to another bar to enlist the help of a fresh bottle of Maker’s Mark and five willing participants. The verdict: unanimous that the spirit was not Maker’s Mark, but a cheap substitute. Just some of the comments: “So acidic.” “What the hell kind of bourbon is that?” “Nasty.”

Though I’d love to tell you the name of the bar, our lawyer won’t let me, what with the litigious nature of things in the Commonwealth — but I am filing a complaint with the PLCB. I’ll keep you posted — and let me know if something similar has ever happened to you.

UPDATE: If you want to file a complaint against a bar for watering down booze — or for any other license violation — call the local office of the State Police’s Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement at 215-726-6200. They told me they will investigate and get back to me.