Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries are struggling to keep up with demand since bourbon whiskey consumption has been on a roll. Nowhere is this more true than at Buffalo Trace Distillery, producer of brands such as Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace, and Pappy Van Winkle.
Despite the increase in distillation over the past few years, demand for bourbon is outpacing supply. Bourbon must be matured in new oak barrels and Buffalo Trace ages many of its barrels for eight to 10 years, and some even as long as 23 years. That’s a long time to wait for a bottle of bourbon. And with the amount of bourbon lost to evaporation each year, a barrel is half empty after 10 years. This is the price paid for well-aged whiskey, but not good news for a world thirsty for every drop of bourbon coming out of this 226-year-old Distillery.
“We are making more bourbon every day. 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,” said Kris Comstock, bourbon marketing director.
“This announcement is not meant as some sort of scare tactic to get people hoarding bourbon. We always want to be upfront with our fans. 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,” continued Comstock. “We’ve made a commitment to quality that we’re not willing to compromise. What this means is that there simply may be times when some of our brands are missing from store shelves.”
Comstock stresses that any bourbon shortages from Buffalo Trace will be temporary, as new barrels are coming of age and are being bottled daily at the Distillery, and will soon find their way to the liquor store shelves and bars. He notes, “We just ask our fans to remember, aging good bourbon takes time, and we’re doing our best to keep up.”
Over the years the Distillery has taken several steps to try to prevent any shortages, such as increasing distillation, installing additional bottling lines, hiring more people, and managing brands on allocation. In fact, Buffalo Trace will hire another person dedicated to watching and balancing bourbon inventory with sales. Because of these efforts, Buffalo Trace Bourbon continues to become more available each year, as well as Weller, Eagle Rare, and Blanton’s. Buffalo Trace estimates the bourbon shortage could last a few years, based on current sales trends.