There supposedly is a Single Malt Scotch shortage in the world. Based on this premise, prices of Scotch have skyrocketed in the past few months – pushing even middling product to over $60/bottle.
As a guy who, once or twice a month likes to sit down with a tumbler of the fair Malted – this has become depressing as my supply dwindles.
This is sort of like the artificial oil crisis of a decade ago, which pushed gasoline prices over $4.00 a gallon despite there being no shortage.
New manufacturers are coming online almost daily. Just in my home state, Virginia, there are several Scotch producers, as well as Bourbon, Rye, and a killer Vodka which is way better than Grey Goose. Japanese Scotch has finally caught up, and excelled as the best Single Malt in the world, with Yamazaki winning the award, Grabbed a bottle months ago, before the price shot up 400%.
So there isn’t really any shortage, much less one which should affect the prices of the 10-15 year old Single Malts.
The only result of this I can see, is a booming business for local distilleries, who are hand crafting some excellent product. I think the big Single Malt producers are about to kill their market.
Media reports of an imminent global shortage in Scotch are overblown—indeed, in a few years, over-production may be the real problem.
What would the world be like without Scotch? It’s a whisky drinker’s worst nightmare, but recent press reports have trumpeted such a doomsday situation facing single malt scotch. (A particularly important concern, since it’s Tartan Week—a celebration of all things Scottish.) The truth: you’re not going to go thirsty any time soon.
Yes, the consumption of single malt has taken off over the last 20 years or so. From 2002 to 2015, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, sales of the spirit in America, alone, are up an astonishing 182 percent.
“The current global demand for Scotch is putting pressure on stocks of mature whisky,” says Charles MacLean, one of the world’s foremost Scotch experts and author of theWhiskypedia: A Compendium of Scotch Whisky.
The problem is that Scotch is an aged alcohol and what you’re drinking today was made at least a decade ago, if not longer.
Distillers, therefore, are always trying to predict what drinkers will want down the road. Such forecasting is, of course, not an exact science. I’m sure most of the brands wish they could go back in time 10 years or more and make additional barrels of whisky that they could sell now.
Instead they have done everything in their power to put more bottles on store shelves, including discontinuing or replacing older whiskies with younger ones that don’t list an age on the label. (A practice that has certainly helped spur the fear of an impending Scotch shortage and will become increasingly more commonplace.)
The brands are also making more whisky. In 2000, according to MacLean, Scotch distilleries were only working at 66 percent capacity and “the result is a shortage of whisky aged between 10 and 16 years,” he says.
But by increasing the number of hours and days they were open that figure rose to 75 percent in 2005 and it was more than 90 percent in both 2013 and 2014. So, in the next decade we’ll begin to see the result of those increases in capacity and there’ll be more mature whisky available.
Currently, there are 20 million casks in Scotland aging and that number will surely go up, since there are also many new distilleries opening. “The last ten years has seen an unprecedented number of new distilleries,” says MacLean.
He has counted 22 new ones that have set up shop since 2004 and, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), another 30 are planned.
And these aren’t all small boutique facilities. The Macallan is working on a new £100 million distillery that is supposed to open next spring and The Glenlivet announced several years ago a £10 expansion, which is set to expand its capacity by 75 percent.
These spirits aren’t just copies of Scottish single malts but are interesting interpretations of the liquor and are building up a loyal following of their own.