Whiskey stocks have been tight for the last decade or so, but there has been no shortage of rumors about brands or expressions being discontinued, prices being raised, or products being degraded through reductions in alcohol content or age.
The problem is a simple one. Quantities needed for sale in 2013 were predicted in 2009 or earlier. Most of the bourbon being distilled today won't be available for sale until at least 2017. No one predicted that the current bourbon boom would shift into another gear about three years ago. It's a nice problem to have compared with the alternative, but it can be difficult to manage, as Maker's Mark showed in February with the proof cut fiasco.
The problem is so acute that Buffalo Trace Distillery (owned by Sazerac), no doubt in response to a barrage of inquiries from retailers and consumers, today felt compelled to issue a press release acknowledging the problem.
Despite our producing more every year, it says, demand continues to outpace supply.
“We are making more bourbon every day," says Kris Comstock, bourbon marketing director at Buffalo Trace. "Our warehouses are filling up with new barrels. Waiting for the bourbon to come of age is the hard part. While we wait, there could be temporary product shortages, even on favorites like Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare.”
Although the press release doesn't mention it specifically, Weller 12 has already experienced localized out-of-stock conditions. The entire Van Winkle line, which is produced by Buffalo Trace, has become scarce to the point of absurdity. Buffalo Trace predicts that fans of its other leading brands such as Blanton's, Buffalo Trace, and Eagle Rare may soon be greeted by bare shelves.
Comstock wants you to know that Buffalo Trace is committed to quality. "We won’t take drastic measures to mitigate the shortages, such as raising prices excessively, lowering the proof or reducing the age of our whiskies,” says Comstock. And any shortages will be temporary.
The only news in the release is that Buffalo Trace will add to its staff someone dedicated to watching and balancing bourbon inventory with sales.