Drinks

On the Rocks

A single malt Scotch shortage is looming
Photo: Rob Brewer via Flickr
Single Malt Scotch

First came rumblings of a whisky shortage, then warnings that gin might be endangered, and now the fate of single malt Scotch may be in question. According to CNN, an increased demand for whisky across the globe is threatening the supply of the prized single malt Scotch.

For those not active in the whisky frenzy or unfamiliar with what sets the drink apart, single malt Scotch is made with whisky from just one distillery; it can't be a blend. Not only that, but single malt Scotch is traditionally aged for many years.

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The single origin and aging process both play into the imminent shortage. By law, Scotch must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years, which makes it inherently challenging to increase supply quickly.

Some producers have started selling Scotch without indicating its age and touting other aspects instead, which allows them to work faster on growing supply. In addition to speeding up the process, eliminating age statements allows for experimentation, Dr. Nick Morgan, head of whisky outreach for spirits producer Diageo, tells the Wall Street Journal. Age statements "tie your hands behind your back in terms of innovation. And innovation has always been the lifeblood of the Scotch whisky category."

Still, aficionados continue to seek out aged Scotch. CNN notes that the demand in China is skyrocketing, especially for the expensive varieties. "Nobody thought in a million years that there would be a market there for 30-, 40-year-old whisky," Stephen Notman of the Whisky Corporation says. But there sure is.

With dwindling supply and growing demand, prices are rising exponentially. A 30-year-aged bottle that sold in 1994 for $110 is now selling at auctions for $7,000.

Though distilleries are ramping up production, it may be a few years before supply can meet the growing thirst for Scotch and drive prices back down. In the meantime, you may want to sip extra slowly.

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