Bourbon boom leads to shortage - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Bourbon boom leads to shortage

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Soaring popularity of bourbon is creating shortages for fans of the smooth drink.

The whiskey named after a long-ago French royal family is primarily distilled in Kentucky and by federal law can only be made in the United States.

This corn-based spirit is in increased demand and that popularity is leading to decreased availability, particularly of some very coveted bourbons.

"We are making more bourbon every day. Our warehouses are filling up with new barrels. Waiting for the bourbon to come of age is the hard part," said Kris Comstock, bourbon marketing director for Buffalo Trace Distillery, which traces its heritage back more than 225 years to 1787.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is home to brands such as Blanton's, Buffalo Trace, and the uber-popular, and even rarer, Pappy Van Winkle. A bottle of Pappy can go for hundreds if not thousands of dollars on websites. And a bottle in a retail store will set you back likely at least $50 depending on its age.

Buffalo Trace is selling more premium brands these days, and because of that, supply is having a hard time keeping up with demand.

Nielsen data backs it up.

According to company research, bourbon sales are up nearly 6 percent over the last 12 months.

Sales of ultra-premium brands, those over $25 bottle, and the bourbons that age a lot longer in barrel before release, are growing even faster, nearly 20 percent in the last year. What's that mean? Limited supplies, and likely higher prices, for your favorite Kentucky-based libation.

Chris Ridler, whose whiskey-themed restaurant/bar Barrel 31, which just opened on 31st Street in Kansas City on Monday, doesn't appear concerned.

"Whiskeys have gone though shortages and surpluses for years. We were lucky over the past ten years to enjoy at lot of 1980's-era whiskeys as the spirit fell out of favor for vodka," Ridler said. "But as the pendulum swings, we are seeing the expensive whiskeys getting more difficult to obtain, and I think it will make that bottle on our shelf that much more meaningful for special occasions."

There are other options, too, including local bottlings. As long as distillers adhere to the rules for bourbon production, meaning it has to be comprised of at least 51 percent corn and aged for a minimum of two years in new, charred, white oak barrels, any distiller, anywhere can call its spirit bourbon.

So, if you're having trouble finding your favorite Kentucky bourbon, why not try a Lenexa bourbon from Dark Horse Distillery, which offers a spirit called Reserve Bourbon Whiskey.

"Kentucky is the birth place and the state most well-known for bourbon. It's a really interesting time, though. There are many distilleries outside Kentucky, including ours, who are bringing their own taste to the industry," said Damian Garcia of Dark Horse Distillery.

Garcia describes the Dark Horse Reserve Bourbon as "smooth and smokey, with caramel and a light maple flavors and a distinct silky finish."

I've not tried it, but others have, and have deemed it a winner, literally. Garcia wanted me to mention that the Reserve Bourbon Whiskey won a gold medal from the American Craft Distillers Association.

As for as the Kentucky Bourbon shortage, Garcia had these thoughts.

"We've been lucky in that our production has met demand. But, we'd like to think that our Reserve Bourbon would sell regardless of any shortages from Kentucky."

Still, the bourbon shortage is real and it's here. And, Buffalo Trace's Comstock said it cold last a few years based on current sales trends. Dark Horse Reserve Bourbon Whiskey anyone?

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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