Whiskey Shortage? Or the Great Whiskey Freakout of 2014?

So, here’s the thing: if you’ve read any spirits-related news lately, you may’ve seen articles on what the “coming” whiskey shortage or what I’m calling The Great Whiskey Freakout of 2014. Everyone from the mainstream outlets like the Wall Street Journal to respected experts like Chuck Cowdery and Fred Minnick have weighed in. Most of them talk about the big labels, and how decisions of 10-20 years ago are affecting supply today. Popular TV shows like Mad Men are fueling an interest in whiskey, even rye whiskey, that’s not been seen in decades.  And everyone seems to be freaking out.  So let’s look at some of the things we know.

Where did all the whiskey go!?

Where did all the whiskey go!?

Pro: People are drinking more whiskey.

Con: People are drinking more whiskey.

On this one, it depends on your viewpoint. A whiskey drinker already? Maybe you’re not thrilled with people suddenly drinking “your” bourbon. That particular line of thought is what also spurs a rather healthy “brown” market for these bottles – a bottle that goes for $100 on the shelf, can go for 5x that on the bulletin boards and forums of the Internet. But – if you’re a whiskey maker, you’re happy that people are drinking your hooch…and wondering if you can hit that sweet spot of supply and demand. Too little and people may go elsewhere, to something they can get more readily. Too much and it’s gonna sit, if demand goes back down.

Con: Whiskey takes time to age.

Con: Scotch is experiencing the same upward pressure, and it also combines with the weakness of the US dollar to drive prices of that peaty potion higher.

Pro: Craft distilling is on the rise, and lots of them make whiskey.

OK – I can hear you now. “No, no, no – you said so yourself , whiskey takes time”. But. I don’t think it always takes the 7+ years that some people demand. You’ll hear terms like “young whiskey”, meaning it’s not had enough time in the barrel. But just because it isn’t aged double-digit years, it doesn’t mean it’s going to taste badly. And yes – there are some folks that are firmly entrenched in “only a 12 year old bourbon will do” camp.  That’s fine – more craft whiskey for me.

I’m not 100% sold we’re headed for a Great Big Bourbon Shortage, but some will say better safe than sorry….and stock their bar 5 deep with their favorites “just in case”.  I think there’s room enough for all of whiskey’s fans at the bar, if no one panics. Easier said than done, maybe. But with today’s craft distillers making some great whiskies for a much closer tomorrow, what do you have to lose? Why not try it while you’re waiting around for that other stuff to age? Who knows, maybe you’ll like craft whiskies better!  Cheers!

About Jeanne Runkle

Jeanne Runkle currently lives in San Diego, and is a certified bartender and craft liquor expert. Her specialty is the brown stuff, whether it's bourbon, rye or good old American whiskey. She can sometimes be found stalking the aisles of a liquor store near you, answering your random whiskey questions.

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