Shortages are becoming way too common a theme in the alcohol world. We already knew distilleries were having a hard time keeping up with the demand of whiskey lovers and know we’re facing a barrel emergency.
Due to heavy rain across Missouri and Arkansas this October, crews were unable to get into the forest and harvest oak trees to be made into barrels. Whiskey by law must be stored for at least two years in new, charred white oak barrels. Whiskey that has been aged in used barrels cannot be called “straight”.
This issue primarily affects distilleries that obtain their barrels from Independent Stave Company, a huge supplier for bourbon barrels in Missouri and Kentucky. Sazarec, Beam Inc., Diageo, Four Roses and Heaven Hill Distilleries are among Independent Stave’s clients. Aka most of the reputable whiskey world.
Four Roses for one, is severely limiting their production for the month of December. They are hoping to make up for the current shortage at the end of distilling season in June and July. The temporary cutback was put in place of a complete halt, which would have resulted in many of Four Roses employees being laid off. It is estimated they are currently short close to 2,500 barrels (or 8 days worth of production).
For now we are being told that the temporary barrel shortage is just that, temporary. There is not a shortage of white oak trees; the problem is the equipment is unable to cut them down with all the rain. Beam’s general manager of whiskies is assuring us that they are, “fully confident in our barrel supply to support the continued growth of our Bourbon business.” Apparently there is no need to hyperventilate just yet.
Sometimes it takes almost losing something great to truly appreciate it, tonight we’ll be sipping our bourbon with a little extra appreciation. What would you do without your beloved whiskey?