For months now, as consumer interest in bourbon, rye and other American whiskies continues its recent boom, stories keep appearing about a bourbon shortage. It’s not hard to figure out why; with so many new recruits starting to explore the field and so many new brands and expressions entering the market, there’s unprecedented pressure on producers to keep up with domestic and international supply.
How popular is bourbon? McDonald's just introduced for a limited time its "Spirit of the Bluegrass" burger, which features a bourbon-flavored sauce, smoked bacon, tomato, lettuce, onions and cheese layered on a quarter pounder. The bourbon-burger is only being sold for a limited time at 99 stores in Kentucky and Indiana. But it goes to show how popular bourbon has become.
Shortage stories have been drummed up because bourbon takes a while to make, can’t by law be rushed, and so a number of companies have resorted to limiting and allocating their releases, or slowing market expansion plans until production catches up with demand. And there have always been some spirits - the Pappy Van Winkle phenomenon being the main example but others come to mind as well - that were always hard to come by and dear to acquire. But along with the amazing demand, there is an equally impressive increase in capacity going on in Kentucky, with old distillers and new ones in various stages of planning or completing facilities with new distilling, storage and production capacity.
Recently, Bacardi bought into Angel’s Envy, one of the newer brands that was selling out in many markets. Already at work on their own facility, like the folks who own the Michters brand and even a big dog like Brown-Forman, which is expanding the Old Forester capacity, this surely means more Angel’s Envy will be available just a while down the road.
The message for bar and restaurant buyers is there’s never been a better time to be selling American whiskey, and the folks who have been at it for a while intend to get you all they can make. Shortage? Maybe a few brands are harder to get or more pricey, but with the overall state of the stuff never better in living memory, you’ll likely have plenty of fine spirit worth seeing to your thirsty customers for quite some time.