The US Might Be Running Out Of Whiskey

Seth Richardson Contributor
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The Tennessean reports distillers and industry observers are predicting an upcoming whiskey shortage as the market has risen 10.2 percent in the past year. David Ozgo of the Distilled Spirits Council told The Tennessean there’s been an “explosion internationally” of exports for bourbon as countries like China, Australia and South Korea have opened their doors to whiskey imports.

Jeff Arnett, the master distiller at Jack Daniel, told the paper the potential shortage doesn’t come as that much of a surprise.

“We’ve been seeing this coming,” Arnett said. “We have seen globally that scotch is losing its position as the go-to whiskey. The new generation appreciates American whiskey for its flavor and mixability. Jack Daniel has been fortunate that even before that shift, we have been able to grow. We’ve been slowly adding warehouses, as well as fermenting and distilling capacity.” (RELATED: The Birth Of American Whiskey)

The recent introduction of flavored whiskeys, such as honey and cinnamon, among the younger crowd is also a factor in the change in the market. (RELATED: The Secret Of Woodford Reserve)

But it may not be as easy as simply ramping up production.

“We could buy the biggest still in the world and the market isn’t going to see any impact for a while,” distiller Darek Bell said. “Every year we’ve been in business we’ve been in short supply; we never have been able to keep up with demand. The stuff we’re making this week was sold months ago, but it hasn’t even aged yet. Three years ago, we were already rationing our production.” (RELATED: You Don’t Know Dickel)

Another cause for concern are the large barrels used to distill bourbon. Clayton Cutler, the chief distiller at the TennSouth distillery, said he is having trouble finding a new supplier for the 53-gallon barrels used to age his whiskey. Bourbon and most Tennessee whiskies require brand new, charred white oak barrels. His regular supplier is sold out for the rest of 2014. (RELATED: This Is How Jim Beam’s Family Parties)

But the news isn’t all sad.

“People will buy my whiskey, of course, but when there’s a shortage of whiskey, they’ll be turning to rum,” Tennessee distiller Phil Pritchard said. “The demand for whiskey is huge right now, and for those of us in the rum business, we think that’s absolutely marvelous. If I were only in the whiskey business, I might be crying in my glass right now.” (RELATED: The Tattooed, Stripper Bachelorette Capital Of America)

Well, it’s a bit of sad news for us whiskey fans.