We’re Drinking Whiskey Faster Than Distillers Can Make More

Whiskey supplies are running low

Photo: amanaimages/Corbis

Bourbon lovers, you'd better stock up. A day of reckoning is quickly approaching, warns Buffalo Trace, one of the oldest distilleries in the country. A whiskey shortage may soon be upon us.

While bourbon producers have seen this problem coming for more than a year, its impacts are just now beginning to hit the market and will likely only worsen. Here's Buffalo Trace with more on the problem:

Despite the increase in distillation over the past few years, bourbon demand still outpaces supply. The overall bourbon category is experiencing 5% growth, but premium brands are up nearly 20% from last year. Bourbon must be matured in new oak barrels and Buffalo Trace ages many of its barrels for eight to ten years, and some over two decades. That’s a long time to wait for a bottle of bourbon. Not to mention, with the amount of bourbon lost to evaporation over time, barrels are half empty after ten years. The increase in sales, coupled with the aging process and evaporation loss, leads to a shortage with no end in sight. 

A shortage of wood necessary to create whiskey barrels, the Spirits Business adds, also seems to be exacerbating the problem. 

As Esquire points out, this surge in demand ultimately reflects a change of societal taste. "Ten years ago everybody drank vodka, and Scotch was something you kept around for when your dad visited," Esquire writes. "Now, whiskey of all kinds has become a fetish object of the young, urban, and image-conscious." Sales data show that most coveted whiskey of all is now the high-end, decade-plus aged varieties. Unfortunately, whiskey brewers preparing today's stocks 10 or more years ago did not see that coming.  

In other words, now might be a good time to get into gin.

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