There have been rumors flying around the liquor industry for quite some time now declaring that there may be a bourbon drought in our midst. Eater Magazine recently took it upon themselves to clear the air and weigh both sides of this crucial debate, because clearly we want to know if we should start stocking up our liquor cabinets to last until 2050!
Over the last ten years more and more women have started to gravitate towards sipping on whiskey and bourbon, which has helped contribute to the 40% growth in sales reported by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Unfortunately, the major US bourbon brands did not have time to plan ahead for this boom in sales, considering that it takes years to age the spirit in barrels.
On the other hand there is a chance that in the next 5 or 10 years the popularity of the brown booze could flip off like a switch. For all we know Generation Z could prefer only drinking champagne! Distillers have to be weary of putting all of their faith in trend/sales projections, and it would be quite the disaster if we ended up with warehouses full of bourbon barrels no one wanted to buy (although if we’re still around we highly doubt that will happen).
The reality is that big time names such as Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek are already starting to feel the effects, and have begun producing more 750ml bottles as opposed to 1.75 liter bottles, with the hopes of making the supply last longer. NAS whiskey is also a new and short-term solution that arose to help with the shortage. Distillers and brands have taken the year off the labels, creating “No Age Statement” whiskey, which ultimately enables the use of younger whiskey in the aging process. A little over a year ago, Maker’s Mark even tried to lower its proof to alleviate their shortages, however consumers were a little too upset and they ultimately reverted to the original proof.
Some experts believe there is no drought in our future, and that the media surrounding the industry is dramatically hyping up a potential scenario. Richard Thomas, editor of The Whiskey Reviewer, has also made the valid point that Sazerac, Maker’s Mark, and Bulleit are all gearing up to expand their distilleries and warehouses with the hopes that they will produce enough bourbon for all of the thirsty folks out there!
You can read further into the two sides of the debate, nicely broken down by Eater here. In the end we can only hope that IF there is a drought that it is quickly replenished. We we’re going to keep sipping our Bourbon regardless, as long as we can get our hands on it.