Whiskey supply is on the rocks

Scotland is struggling to keep up with skyrocketing international demand

On the rocks

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Allowing scotch whisky to soak, for years, in oak barrels may be great for flavour, but it’s making it tough to meet skyrocketing international demand. As China, India and Russia acquire a taste for the pricey spirit, Scotland has been struggling to fill orders for its signature drink.

“In the ’80s, scotch was essentially a product for the U.S. and Western Europe,” Christian Porta, chairman of whisky producer Chivas Brothers, told London’s Financial Times. “Today, scotch has a worldwide footprint.” But outsourcing production isn’t allowed: Scottish law requires that it be distilled in Scotland.

Diageo, the world’s largest scotch producer, known for brands like Johnnie Walker and J&B, has seen sales jump 50 per cent in the last five years to nearly $4.5 billion. The company recently announced a billion-dollar investment in whisky production, but it will take years before the product makes it to market. The problem is that even the youngest scotches need to age at least three years. Talisker, a single malt produced on the Isle of Skye, matures over 25 years. It seems some drinkers will have to wait: even the worst of scotches has long legs.

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