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Issue 122 - When Will the Wood Run Out

Whisky Magazine Issue 122
September 2014


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When Will the Wood Run Out

The current demand for whisky has created a boom to beat all booms. But will a worldwide shortage of casks bring it to a juddering halt?

Have you noticed how expensive whisky is getting and how rapidly prices have gone up? Or become aware that a high proportion of new releases no longer have an age statement, and that an industry that talked constantly about age and quality has about-faced?

Or started to feel that at least some of said whisky just doesn't taste as great as it once did?

Well brace yourself. For in the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, ‘You ain't seen nothing yet'.

We are at height of a perfect storm which has it roots in the American recession of 2008, has worked its way back to the forests of Missouri, and has now travelled into the very heart of the world whisky industry. When America sneezed and stopped making casks the rest of the world waited four years and then caught a cold. Simply put, we've all but run out of bourbon barrels and there aren't enough to go round.

“The situation was dire last year, it's dire this year, and it's not going to be much better next year,” says the world's leading wood expert Dr Jim Swan. “We're 130,000 barrels short this year so it might not bring the whisky boom to an end, but it will certainly slow it down considerably.”

The problem has been caused by a fall in demand of bourbon when the recession bit in America. The huge Kentucky distilleries cut back, so the two main cooperages, Independent Staves and Bluegrass, stopped buying wood. And in turn the wood loggers, typically independent single or two person companies, sought work elsewhere....

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