There’s been a lot of coverage about the great impending whiskey shortage lately. America experienced a banner year for whisky sales in 2013, achieving the fastest rate of growth since the 1960s.
The problem lies in the aging required for whiskeys. With single malt scotches averaging a minimum of 12 years in the barrel before making their way to shelves, distilleries need to have a crystal ball handy to plan for demand in the following decade. The old magic 8-ball must have read "reply hazy" in the 1990s because many distilleries didn’t see this surge in demand on the horizon.
Much of the press around the whiskey shortage stemmed from a press release that Buffalo Trace Distillery released in May where it warned customers that increased demand could result in its products being unavailable in the coming months.
The key fact that seems to have been overlooked by many is the part of the release that stresses that “any bourbon shortages from Buffalo Trace will be temporary”. This will likely be the case with most distilleries who are continually bottling new product as it comes of age.
So while you may be disheartened when your favorite brand isn’t on the shelf of your local store, there’s no cause for alarm. The absence will likely last for no longer than a month in most cases.
We can’t blame you if you’re not completely comforted by this revelation. We love our booze too, and if we remember one thing from boy scouts, it’s “be prepared”.
So for those of you planning for the worst, here are three strategies to help you weather the worst of the shortage.
If you’re a diehard fan of a particular brand, and the thought of an empty space on the liquor store shelf fills you with dread, you can always pick up a few extra bottles. Like we said, most shortfalls should last only a month. No need to clear out a storage shelf in the basement, but an extra bottle or two could go a long way to allaying your fears.
You may find that your usual brand is missing from the shelf, but all isn’t lost. There are a lot of great brands out there, so why not turn lemons into lemonade and take the opportunity to find a new favorite brand. If you need a friendly recommendation, we’ve been enjoying Jameson Black Barrel and W.L. Weller Special Reserve (both great deals at around the $30 mark!)
3. Swap Scotch for Bourbon
Scotch sales grew about 12% last year vs. bourbon’s 7%. Additionally, a good bourbon can be aged for four years compared to 12 for scotch. When you combine those facts, it’s easy to see that any shortage will be affecting the availability (and inflating the price) of scotch for a good while longer that it will bourbon.