Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Buffalo Trace Distillery Issues Third Annual Bourbon Inventory Update

Buffalo Trace started all of the bourbon shortage hysteria with their first report three years ago. Since then, they have gotten increasingly careful about how they word things. I will, therefore, let them speak for themselves. By the way, Buffalo Trace is owned by Sazerac, which also owns the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown. This press release refers to Buffalo Trace and its brands only.

There’s good news and there’s bad news coming from Buffalo Trace Distillery in its third annual bourbon inventory update. The good news is that supplies of fully-aged whiskey at the 225-plus-year-old Distillery continue to increase and Buffalo Trace is making more whiskey than ever. The bad news is that demand continues to outstrip its available supply, which means all of the Distillery’s whiskey brands remain on allocation.

“This annual update relates to Buffalo Trace Distillery specifically, and is not intended to speak for the bourbon industry as a whole, or other distillers,” said Kris Comstock, bourbon marketing director.

“Not a day goes by that we don’t hear from fans asking why they can’t find their favorite whiskey at the local liquor store, so we are offering an annual update to inform people where we stand, and ensure fans we are distilling more whiskey and planning for the future.”

Since demand continues to outstrip supply, brands such as Elmer T. Lee, Rock Hill Farms, Van Winkle, and the Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Sazerac 18, Thomas H. Handy, and Eagle Rare 17) will continue to be on strict allocation and hard to find for the foreseeable future.

Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Weller, Sazerac Rye, Stagg Jr., and E. H. Taylor, Jr. will continue to be in short supply, but will benefit slightly from increased production more than a decade ago. “Although we can’t guarantee that every fan will find Buffalo Trace or Blanton’s every time they visit the liquor store, things are starting to look up, and overall our inventory is in a better place than it was a year ago. We are very appreciative that fans like our whiskey and thankful for all of their continued patience,” added Comstock.

A few things that Buffalo Trace Distillery will NOT do:
  • Buffalo Trace Distillery won’t lower their quality standards or alcohol by volume (ABV) just to sell more whiskey. 
  • The suggested retail pricing will not be raised just to take advantage of the high demand. (Note, although some stores may charge a premium for Buffalo Trace’s limited brands, the Distillery is not asking them to do so.)
  • Brands won’t be discontinued. All bourbon brands will continue to be produced and allocated each year, with a focus on quality and making more.  
In addition to the previous improvements announced in 2014 such as distilling more whiskey, adding more bottling lines, and hiring more people, Buffalo Trace is taking additional steps to prepare for a growing future. The Distillery recently purchased an additional 300 acres of farmland adjacent to its current land where it intends to grow its own grains for a farm-to-table bourbon, plus potentially build more barrel warehouses. Additionally, former barrel warehouse buildings repurchased a few years ago on the main campus of Buffalo Trace are being re-ricked and used again as barrel storage warehouses, and plans are in the works to re-rick additional buildings on site in the next few years.

The innovation Buffalo Trace is so well known for is being enhanced as the Distillery expands – its experimental warehouse, Warehouse X, has had nearly one year of barrels aging in it, yielding data with very interesting results; more than 3,000 barrels of experimental whiskies are currently aging on the Distillery’s grounds; and research on DNA fingerprinting is taking place as well.

The whiskies from Buffalo Trace are benefiting from resurgence in the category as a whole.

According to Nielsen, bourbon and whiskey grew at 6% for the 52 weeks ending 3/28/15, with premium volumes up 6.2% and ultra volumes up 19%.


Anonymous said...

I cannot help but laugh at the crocodile tears over the "bad news" of increased demand :D


brian said...

DNA fingerprinting?

Erik Fish said...

"DNA fingerprinting?"

I'm curious about that, too. I think it's related to identifying and improving different varieties of the grains that are used in whiskey production.

Richard said...

I find it fascinating BT has re-purchased the old concrete/yellow brick rick houses they sold to the State many years ago. They had been completely redone as Office space, the Fair Oaks campus; functional, if a bit Spartan. Those building are very well built. I imagine it was a huge job to convert back to barrel storage. I would love to see the new interior and how it was done.

Unknown said...

Chemical fingerprinting whiskeys may help speed processing, improve quality, and prevent fraud.

UC Davis is doing the study:

Harry said...

Thanks, Chuck. I'm surprised and more than a little pleased they intend to hold the line on prices of their major brands. The rolling shortages have been annoying but not heartbreaking; I just switch allegiances for awhile.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Answer from BT: "DNA fingerprinting is our research and standardization project for our whiskey inventory and production. We are using a combination of traditional testing such as color, proof and taste along with more sophisticated testing in the areas of volatile and non-volatile principal component analysis. The project is allowing us to isolate and focus on specific components within the whiskey, all in an effort to fully understand our distillation and aging characteristics, to effectively fingerprint the DNA of our whiskey.

"At this time we are able to match a barrel of whiskey against a set of standards and know whether it fits the profile of the brand it is being used for."

Erik Fish said...

Thanks for following up on that, Chuck.

That is interesting. All I was able to find with an admittedly cursory search on DNA fingerprinting and whiskey/whisky were Scottish attempts to identify or create some " super barley" for a better malt.

I guess BT's efforts make sense for a distillery that's putting out as many different labels as they are.

Who knows, maybe some day soon you can buy a "Whiskey DNA fingerprinting home kit", and all it takes is a few drops of that overpriced "craft" whiskey in a test tube, and you know "Aha! MGP!"

Anonymous said...

Overpriced craft ? Now that's funny.
BT is now attempting to to put the final nail in the coffin of the entire mystique of distilled spirits, by automating the blending process. When you are pumping out millions of gallons of homogenized ethanol, you can greatly improve your profitability by eliminating the need for human interaction. The one area that however virtually demanded a human touch was the blending "nose" . Soon to be gone now at BT?

I await the day when BT Puts pumps beside diesel and gasoline at your friendly neighborhood convience store, that dispenses their ordinary and completely boring product directly into a gallon jug.

Bedlamist said...

I don't recall Ancient Age or Benchmark having an age statement (not since Benchmark was 8 years old a few years back), now those bourbons are an infantile 36 months. Is this recent or is my memory playing tricks?

I can attest that Luxco ruined Ezra Brooks, reducing it also to 80 proof & 36 months, and making it taste like it's diluted with piss. (Yes, I had *that* joke played on me once too.) And Canadian Club is no longer 6 years old; neither is Very Old Barton. Etc. etc. etc.

If the industry must cheapen their products they should lower the price.

Anonymous said...

The industry can charge whatever the market will bear.