Now we have some more context on what could be contributing to the shortage: the housing crash.
Let’s take a step back.
You probably know that there’s been a huge uptick in the popularity of whiskey in America — especially craft whiskeys and, in particular, bourbon. Demand has surged and the number of distillers has ballooned.
Now, understand that bourbon, a specific type of American whiskey, must be aged for two years in brand new oak barrels. Usually it’s aged in white oak, a hardwood native to the eastern US. While Scotch and other liquors can be aged in reused barrels, bourbon cannot.
So here’s the problem: ever since the house market’s collapse, there’s been a slowdown in white oak logging, creating huge bottlenecks for barrelmakers and distillers.
That’s according to The Wall Street Journal, which reports that sawmill production levels dropped off sharply in 2009 and have yet to return to their early-2000 levels.
The good news is, there’s more than enough white oak in America, according to the report. But nobody’s around to log it because so many foresters went out of business after the collapse.
So this could actually be a huge opportunity.