How Bourbon-Barrel Shortages Are Affecting Local Distillers

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Barrels at Still 630. - Steve Truesdell
Steve Truesdell
Barrels at Still 630.

Missouri native Mark Twain famously said, "Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough." He surely would have trembled at the dreaded phrase "bourbon shortage."

Both the Wall Street Journal and Time have reported on a "bourbon shortage" within the past year — serious reports echoed by numerous clickbait-y versions of the same story. Responding to claims the bourbon shortage is just industry hype, Business Insider defended its stance with an article titled "The Bourbon Shortage Is 'Very Real,' and It's Coming for the Good Stuff."

It turns out, there really is no such thing. With large distilleries making as much whiskey as ever and new micro-distilleries opening all the time, we may be heading toward "too much good whiskey" — provided, that is, we have ample barrels for aging it.

"As far as a bourbon shortage, it's just not true," says Ted Kilgore, co-owner of Planter's House and St. Louis' expert on all things booze-related. "There's more juice on the market now than ever before. The amount of barrels produced is the real problem."

So why exactly do barrels matter — and why aren't there enough of them?

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