A surge in the demand for bourbon has led to a shortage in whiskey barrels. Exports of bourbon were in excess of 1 billion, that’s right with a “B” billion in 2014. Bourbon production has increased more than 50% from 2010 to 2013. In three years the craft-distilling companies have doubled to about 600 distillers.
The housing market crash of 2007 led to a number of lumber mills closing, they rebounded in 2014 but the supply of white oak has not caught up with the demand for barrel makers (Coopers). High timber prices, the lack of loggers have added to the problem. There is no quick fix for the bourbon industry’s supply problem. Since the bourbon has to be aged, the available supply is whatever was put in oak barrels 10 years ago when demand was lower. Distillers want to put more into barrels now but the barrels remain hard to get.
At a craft spirit conference where there was a presentation on staves(the wooden strips that make up the side of the barrels) and bungs(the plug for the bung hole) and the room was overflowing. Not for the lecture but the hopes of where to find barrels. The shortage is currently getting better and with the current tariffs could help close that gap.