The Great Bourbon Shortage Has Begun, And There's No End In Sight

Get ready to pay more for your Kentucky whiskey. Or do without it.

Because of the recent spike in popularity of the brown spirit, distillers, who generally need to age even the cheapest stuff for 8-10 years, are warning that a major shortage is coming.

This isn’t a total surprise. Buffalo Trace Distillery warned last year that demand was outpacing supply and temporary product shortages were on the horizon.

Well, the shortage is now here.

Here’s what Buffalo Trace had to say in its distillery email blast today:

Last year we warned consumers that a shortage was looming, but many markets across the nation are just now feeling the full effects. Along with increased production, adding more bottling lines and hiring more people, we have also hired a full-time barrel allocation manager, just as we intended last year. Despite the increase in distillation over the past few years, bourbon demand still outpaces supply. Bourbon must be matured in new oak barrels and we age many of our 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 ageing process and evaporation loss, leads to a shortage with no end in sight. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we try to catch up!

Buffalo Trace isn’t the only distillery running into this problem. Bourbon is a lot more popular than it was 10 years ago, so it makes sense that most producers are going to run into supply problems for the next few years. Last year, Maker’s Mark tried to get around the issue by diluting the alcohol that went into its bottles.

That did not go well.

Presumably other distillers will just do what most businesses do when demand outstrips supply: raise prices.

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