Bourbon Shortage? A Measured Response

May 16, 2014

Bourbon Shortage?

There’s a looming bourbon shortage, according to Buffalo Trace. But that may very well be dependent on how you view the situation.

Last week, Buffalo Trace issued a press release stating that there’s a growing shortage of juice – one without a foreseeable end as demand continues to outpace production.

First – in no way are we discounting the situation at Buffalo Trace. But, we do have to consider the whiskey industry as a whole – and while numerous sites like Time, Smithsonian Magazine, FoxNews, and many more have all been quick to cry wolf in their headlines – there are so many factors at play here that the situation may well be vastly different from how those headlines read. So, let’s take a look at a few of the more factors that could be affecting the bourbon situation.

A Measured Response

1. US export. Yes, US exports of whiskey in 2013 hit a records number, topping $1 Billion – but it’s of import to note that the vast majority of that isn’t bourbon – it’s good ol’ Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. And the response from Brown-Forman? Expand, expand, expand. They’re dropping $100Mil on a Lynchburg expansion project. So, while global [American] whiskey demand continues to increase – the lion’s share of that is actually Jack, and they’re expanding to meet the demand head on.

2. Chinese Imports. China’s whiskey market has been growing for years. A huge population, coupled with general increase in demand has seen China drinking up a larger and larger portion of global supplies – but that’s all changing. Late in 2013, China imposed a higher-than-ever tax on luxury imported goods, including whiskey. In fact, Scotch exports globally were flat last year while volume and demand increased, and a few of the global liquor companies have already publicly noted a decrease in profits in Q4 because of this very situation. Inability to sell in China equates to an opening-up of global supply across whiskey genres.

3. New Distilleries, Craft Distillers, & New Technology. Where to even begin? The sheer quantity of craft bourbon and whiskey hitting the market every year at this point verges on staggering (in a fantastic way). 81 new distilleries launched in the US last year taking the country to 623 – versus 70 less than a decade ago, with an expectation of hitting the 750 mark by the end of this year – and due to states’ blue laws, a lot of that can’t be exported or even sold outside of the home state. Diageo is working (and spending) on a massive rebirth of the Stitzel-Weller to bring a host of new whiskey & bourbon to market, while other older stillhouses continue to expand and rebuild. You’ve got folks like Cleveland Whiskey creating new ways to age whiskey that while it may not be technically bourbon, opens up a whole new world of bourbon-like American whiskey. Add in experimentation with casks and mashes, new finishes and blends, and everything else, and it’s a damn exciting time.

All in all – there’s more and more out there to try every single day. From the small distillers just now getting to market after years of aging and the guys just getting underway, to the ‘Orphan Barrels’ from Diageo – there’s so, so much more to try, and fall in love with.

Either way, we’re here to help you navigate the whiskey world, and find that new gem.

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