Over the past few years, we’ve seen a bourbon boom. This increased demand sounds like it should be good news for those in the business of making the barrels in which bourbon ages, but producers actually can’t keep up. And now we’re looking at a serious bourbon barrel shortage.
At the crux of the problem is that in order to properly be called bourbon, it must conform to certain rules. One of those requires the booze to age in new oak barrels. That means that every new batch needs fresh wood.
“All the growth might have been intoxicating except for a sobering fact: The demand for more barrels coincided with a massive contraction in the lumber industry,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. “As the housing market crashed in 2007, sawmills shut down and loggers abandoned the market.” From 2005 to 2009, lumber producers cut their output in half.
Small distillers, who have helped drive the boom, are getting hit the hardest not just for financial reasons, but because it is simply more difficult for them to get barrels. The WSJ spoke with Michael Anderson, owner of Independent Distilling Company in Georgia, who’s worried that if he doesn’t get the second half of a recent barrel order, he may have nowhere to age his whiskey. “We’re on the end of our barrels, and it’s a real possibility.”
Sounds like the bourbon boom could give way to a rise in unaged whiskey.