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Issue 54 - Are we running out

Whisky Magazine Issue 54
March 2006

 

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Are we running out

Probably not, says Charles Cowdery, but supplies are as tight as they have been in many years

At the end of 2004, the last year for which figures are available, the Kentucky whiskey industry had 224,173 barrels of whiskey aged eight years or more in its collective inventory.

Because bourbon and other American straight whiskey is always aged in new charred oak barrels, it matures fast. Eight years is old for an American whiskey, which typically has four to six summers under its belt when drunk.

To consumers, American whiskey with eight or more years on it tends to be a speciality item, purchased by enthusiasts more so than ordinary drinkers. It is not the American whiskey producer's bread and butter.

But still, the stockpile in that age range dropped 40 percent in 2004 and today stands at its lowest level since 1998. No wonder then that Mark Brown, president of Buffalo Trace Distillery, characterises the current availability of whiskey aged eight to 10 years as “desperate.” With sales up both at home and abroad, has the American whiskey industry had too much of a good thing? Is demand starting to exceed supply? Are we running out of bourbon?

After Diageo suspended production at George Dickel in 1999, fans of that Tennessee whiskey kept bugging master distiller Dave Backus about when distilling would resume.

“If you drink it all, we'll make more,” was his standard reply.

Today, American whiskey producers are not so flippant as they watch their inventories of mature whiskey dwindle, not that there is anything they can do about it now. It isn't even about ca...

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