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Booming Whiskey Sales Leaves Distillers Scraping Bottom Of The Barrel

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By:  Melina Matthes
MMatthes@kptm.com

OMAHA (KPTM) - Experts say the future of high quality whiskey is changing. 

Demand is going up and the supply is decreasing. 

It's bad news for drinkers and not just those in the United States.  Global sales last year were over $1 billion.  That's up from $400 million only a few years ago. 

It's causing prices per bottle to skyrocket and distillers can't keep up.

Experts said 10 years ago vodka was the drink of choice, however now they're seeing a new trend…bourbon, whiskey, and scotch.  It's so popular it's flying off the shelves.

"It's hard to keep up with the trends because I mean one week it might be this whiskey is really popular and so it's just all about trying to keep up with the popularity," whiskey connoisseur, Cortney Edwards said.

She said whiskey of all kinds is the new obsession for drinkers.  The previously male dominated trend is now evolving.  It's something young, urban people desire and even women.  "Women are coming out and wanting to go to our monthly tastings now and they're coming in and sitting at the bar and ordering a Manhattan or an old fashioned or stuff like that, it's kind of nice to see everybody getting into it."

Sales of single malt scotches have doubled, bourbon sales have tripled and that's just in America.  Globally the whiskey business is booming.  "They're buying a lot of that product up and some producers don't even bring product into the United States anymore, some of the cognac producers, they're still producing the product but because they can sell every bottle that they produce in the orient they're shipping to the orient and no allocation for the United States market," whiskey vendor, Jerry Rambo said.

And because the demand has gone up, supply is down.  "I think in the next 5 years people need to get used to not being able to find something that they used to be able to find," Edwards said.

"We're very sad, very sad," whiskey aficionado, B.J. Reed said.

Experts said this isn't a new problem.  The industry has always been about guessing the future.  Distilleries predict what trends will be like and make the quantity they think will be desired.  "When it says an 18 year old that means it literally sat in the barrel for 18 years and so they have to understand that if the supply isn't there they can't get it," Edwards said.

"When there's a shortage you can't immediately fill the gap with product, yes you can make more but it's still going to take 10 or 15 or 20 years even if you double your production to be able to sell it then," Rambo said.

In the meantime, experts said it's all about being a smart consumer.  "We try to search out good bargains as well.  Independent bottling's or other bottling's that we can find from people so that we can continue to collect and not spend so much money on it," Reed said.

"Don't be afraid to try the younger stuff, see if you can experiment a little bit and find something that you like just as much," Edwards said.

Experts said because distillers are struggling to keep up, they're ensuring their customers are happy by watering down their bourbon.  Some single malt scotches are being released without an age. 

The best advice?  Stock up.  Unlike wine, whiskey stops aging after it's bottled so you might as well buy as much as you can afford, that way you have some for a rainy day. 

Experts also recommend whiskey drinkers stick with established brands.  They say being a startup is not a good thing.  Years of experience typically mean higher quality. 

And don't get too excited about new releases.  They are usually misleading.  Experts say it's a company's chance to bring awareness to their brand.

"Like" Melina on Facebook and follow her on Twitter to stay connected. 

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