Why an Irish Whiskey Shortage — Years in the Making — May Soon Be Upon Us

June 11, 2018, 6:34 PM UTC

If you like Irish whiskey, then now might be a good time to stock up. Following the news that many Japanese distilleries are starting to run out of the good stuff, it looks like Irish whiskey makers might run into the same problem.

The issue comes with aging. By Irish law, all whiskey has to be aged a minimum of 3 years, but many are aged for a lot longer. Jameson, for instance, is a blend of whiskey that has been aged for between five and seven years. It’s Black Barrel is aged around 12 years.

Irish whiskey’s aging means that distillers have to determine today what the demand will be for their whiskey years from now. And since the demand for whiskey has kind of taken off in recent years, that means the world is blowing through the reserves a lot faster than originally planned. As a result, there’s about to be an Irish whiskey shortage.

“What we are making now, you won’t sell for seven years,” John Teeling, maker of Teeling Irish whiskey recently told The Irish Times. “So we will have a shortage if the rate of growth continues at a cumulative rate over the next six or seven years.”

Irish whiskey sales are growing at a rate of more than 10% each year, according to the Irish Whiskey Association. The group says exports of Irish whiskey are anticipated to double to 144 million bottles by 2020 and 288 million bottles by 2030. If that growth continues, distillers and drinkers are probably safe for the next five or six years, but there may be an Irish whiskey shortage a down the line.

Currently, more than 200 bottles of Irish whiskey are sold every minute. Next time you head to the liquor store, you might want to up that number to 201 and buy a reserve bottle, just in case.

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