The World Is Entering A Single Malt Scotch Drought

Above: The world is running low on old single malt Scotch
Above: The world is running low on old single malt Scotch

A bit of bad news from the world of booze: we’re running low on old, single malt Scotch whisky.

This deficit of aged single malt Scotch—whisky created from the product of a single distillery—can be attributed to exploding demand. That is to say, the world is simply drinking it faster than distillers can produce it.

If numbers are your thing, here are some figures cited in a report by CNN Money:

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, sales of single malt Scotch tripled between the year 2002 and 2015. According to The Scotch Whisky Association in the UK, meanwhile, single malt exports ballooned by nearly 160% between 2004 and 2014, with up to one fifth of the world’s Scotch exports now going to Asia, where more than a quarter billion bottles are purchased each year—something nobody anticipated. To reiterate, the world is drinking a lot of single malt Scotch.

Now, one might wonder why distillers don’t just make more. Well, because it takes 18 years to make an 18-year-old bottle of Scotch. And 18 years ago, when today’s batch of 18-year-old whiskies were made, Scotland’s distillers were clearly not anticipating the popularity spike that the drink would experience in the 21st century. This is even truer in the case of older whiskies. So, while many distillers are now boosting production, we will not enjoy the fruits of this increased production for many years.

As Charlie Whitfield, a brand manager for Macallan, told CNN, “we just need to be patient and allow those casks to work their magic.”

While we’re being patient of course, prices for older bottles of single malt Scotch will continue to skyrocket as shortages increase.

As Stephen Notman of The Whisky Corporation told CNN, for example, a 30-year-old bottle of Black Bowmore whisky that cost just $110 before its release in 1994 can now fetch upward of $7000 at auction—and this trend is expected to continue until supply catches up to demand.

So, what is a whisky lover to do in the face of this drought? Well, as Esquire suggests, you’d be wise to either stock up on older whiskies now, before prices get any higher, or simply acquire a taste for younger—and cheaper—whiskies.

Either way, we’ll get through this…we hope.

Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor is a globetrotting writer currently based in Ottawa, Canada. He covers mixed martial arts for Fightland and Vice Sports, and freelances for a number of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @TomTayMMA.

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