We're Not Out of the Woods Yet

The great American whiskey shortage is no longer a secret. We're no longer spending hours of our day explaining to customers why they can't get Black Maple Hill anymore, or why getting things like Weller 107 or Sazerac rye are still difficult despite the increases in production. After years and years of blog posts, emails, and phone conversations, our entire customer base is pretty much up to speed on the situation. Plus, we're starting to see a few glimpses of blue in those dreary Kentucky skies, with larger drops of previously unavailable whiskies happening more frequently.

That being said, other scenarios are getting worse rather than improving. The situation with the ports on the West Coast is playing the most significant role in the current shortage of brands like Glenlivet, Aberlour, and other basic expressions you don't expect to be absent from the liquor store shelf (we've been out of both of those whiskies for almost a month). However, the situation with Japanese whisky supplies has nothing to do with dock strikes and everything to do with demand. Many consumers have already felt the pinch with Yamazaki 12 and 18 stocks, or experienced the recent difficulty in tracking down a bottle of Hibiki. The word finally came in from Suntory this week regarding the future of allocations and distribution: one case per store, per month. That means we can only get six bottles of Hibiki 12 per month total. It's a bit like the three bottles of Weller 12 we're allowed to buy per week: not even enough to last fifteen seconds on the website. It comes in and goes right back out in the blink of an eye. Basically, if you want to buy these bottles from us, you have to troll our website 24/7 to see when they land and hope that you're the fastest clicker. It's not going to be much fun.

Nikka supplies, in contrast, have been strong and unchanging, but I did hear a few rumblings this week from my friends in Japan. The 12 year old Pure Malt will be losing its age statement due to supply issues (that's been a long time coming), but it turns out that the popularity of the Japanese show Massan & Ellie, which tells the story of Masataka Taketsuru's journey to Scotland in 1918, is having a drastic effect on the consumption of Nikka whisky at home. Basically, it's exciting the local populace into drinking so much Nikka whisky that the company is now burning through supplies at an alarming rate. But, of course, we American whiskey drinkers have been down this road already. We know what's going to happen. It's just that now it's going to happen in Japan. Basically, if you're as big a fan of the Nikka whiskies as I am, now might be a good time to put an extra bottle or two aside.

Scotland looks good for the moment. As you probably saw from our most recent arrival of K&L casks, the prices are looking more reasonable and the availability is better than it's been in years. David and I will be heading back across the Atlantic in a few weeks to do some more digging and keep the supply flowing. In the meantime, don't expect the Pacific supply chain to unloosen any time soon. They're tightening their belts, getting ready for their own shortage over on that side of the world.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll