Whiskey Shortage Across U.S.

By Sarah McCathy, KCRG-TV9

People everywhere are drinking whiskey faster than distillers can make it.

So unless demand goes down, or prices go up, that could mean a nationwide whiskey shortage.

“Producers over the years have had to predict how popular it’s going to be,” said Kolin Brighton, a production manager at Cedar Ridge in Swisher. “Sometimes it’s popular and sometimes it’s not, so you’re either short or you’re long.”

Right now, producers are short.

And according to Brighton, that’s because the popularity of the drink is booming.

“Up until about ten years ago, most distilleries were heavy on inventory,” Brighton said. “So they were putting very old and very good whiskeys into some cheap blends.”

But once demand started growing, that process changed.

“They’ve gone back to a younger blend in some of the cheaper stuff, so now we’re running short,” Brighton said.

And making whiskey isn’t a quick process.

“It’s about two to five years, depending on the whiskey, before it’s ready to go,” he said.

And even though Brighton’s confident that Cedar Ridge won’t run out of the drink anytime soon, they could run out of a place to store it.

“As all of these big distilleries are trying to increase their whiskey capacity, it’s putting a strain on the barrel industry,” Brighton said.

And most whiskeys have to be stored in brand new barrels.

But those can’t be cranked out quickly.

“Barrels actually sort of work like whiskey,” he said. “You have to cut a tree down, you have to cut it into the staves, and then it has to sit outside in a pile for two to three years to air dry.”

Right now, Cedar Ridge has about 600 barrels total, but only 60 of those are empty.

And they aren’t able to get more.

“We’re actually on allocation from our new barrel supplier,” Brighton said. “We were allocated a certain amount for 2014 and that’s all we can get.”

For now, that essentially puts a cap on how much their whiskey business can grow.

“If we get ten more states that call and say, ‘Hey, we want to bring in the Iowa Bourbon Whiskey,’ we’re going to have to tell them no because we just don’t have enough.”

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