Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Whiskey Shortage Is So Bad, Buffalo Trace Has Issued a Press Release

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.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Richnimrod said;
WELL! It really comes as no surprise, I guess. I was particularly unsurprised by the part where BT says they won't raise prices "excessively"... Which I take to mean prices will indeed be going up soon.... just not "excessively". We who love our Bourbon are increasing in number, and it's showing up on the supply side of the equation.

Anonymous said...

Gary said:

We already heard through distributors that prices were going up (in particular on our beloved Elmer T Lee), so I see the PR as a means to get in front of the outrage over price increases (as well as perhaps to create an environment where people see THEIR products as being in short supply - causing folks to run out and buy MORE to stock up?)

For what it is worth - I'm willing to pay a few bucks more than to see ABV or age drop.

Anonymous said...


Chuck-

Weller 12 Year and Ancient Ancient Age (10 Year).......

Out-Of-Stock at MAJOR Northern Kentucky Retailer (TPS).

Will Buffalo Trace Distillery continue marketing Benchmark and W.L. Weller Special Reserve (7 Year)

OR.......

Age product longer to use as Higher Price/Upper Shelf" ?*!*?

Inquiring Minds Want To Know......

Chuck Cowdery said...

You just illustrated both the types of rumors they'd like to defeat, and why they are unlikely to succeed.

Anonymous said...

The real news in that release was that Buffalo Trace wasn't ALREADY organized and properly staffed to balance bourbon inventory with sales.

Josh Butler said...

The real news in that release was that most of these companies don't have crystal balls that accurately predicted the boom in popularity. You can't distill 12 year old bourbon today and most industries don't have to worry about predicting 10-15 years in advance just to keep people happy tomorrow.

Josh Butler said...

No one that I know has a crystal ball that accurately forecasts bourbon demand 10-15 years in the future. Buffalo Trace isn't the only distillery that has had to make changes/experience shortages that are directly related to the boom in popularity.

It has nothing to do with being properly staffed or organized, this isn't a Subway where your product comes together in moments before your eyes.

Anonymous said...

@Josh, apparently it does have something to do with organization and staff or they wouldn't be making organizational staffing changes. And "Subway" is your unimaginative false analogy, not mine.

Doug Ford said...

Alas! for this shortage. So many of my favorite whiskies come from Buffalo Trace. It will be interesting to see how things shake out over the next four years. Thanks for posting this article.

Seth said...

Back in the old days, having demand outpace supply made you a success. Now we talk about them like they're a failure.

Raising prices, when your product is popular is a fantastic solution. It increases the likelihood that it will be available, if any of us choose to buy it. The key is to raise it enough to balance demand, without turning away Customers, in the future, when you do have more stocks available.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Your nostalgia is misplaced. It has always been like this in the whiskey business because the aging cycle requires you to project so far in advance. You're right that too much demand is better than too little, and your prescription is right too, but it's the way it's always been. It's just that American whiskey hasn't had this 'problem' in a very long time.

Anonymous said...

No shortage of Weller or Maker's Mark here in Texas. These products are available en masse at any one time. In three years I have never seen anyone buy Weller or MM (except me).

So I wonder if they couldn't simply review sales. If sales in TX has dwindled, spread the love to other states who have none. Shortage issue solved.

Anonymous said...

I just saw that the good state of New Hampshire has Maker's Mark on sale. I guess they didn't get the memo on short supply and price increases.

Adair said...

Once the crisis is over, do you think we'll ever see a return of the wonderful Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year? So sad to see this amazing bourbon disappear...