Global Irish whiskey shortage may be on horizon, industry veteran warns

Bottles of Jameson whiskey are pictured in this March 10, 2017 file photo. Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Irish whiskey tycoon John Teeling issued a sobering warning that the drink has become so popular, a global shortage of the spirit may soon be on the horizon.

In an interview with the Irish Times, Teeling, dubbed the grandfather of Irish whiskey, said that thanks to a surge in global demand, barrels of the spirit are running dry.

“Soon there will be a shortage of Irish whiskey,” the 72-year-old told the newspaper. “What we are making now, you won’t sell for seven years. So we will have a shortage if the rate of growth continues at a cumulative rate over the next six or seven years.”

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Teeling noted that the Japanese market is facing a similar situation, forcing makers to the likes of Suntory to ration some of its best-aged whiskey. In 2012, Teeling sold Cooley Distillery to Suntory. He told the newspaper the drink maker had pulled Hakushu 12-year and Hibiki 17-year single-malts from shelves to ration the stock.

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According to the Times, sales of Irish whiskey are growing more than 10 per cent a year. However, the Irish Whiskey Association tried to cool the fears of a shortage, saying the industry is prepared to supply the demand.

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“We have gone from having four distilleries to 18. Over the next two years, a lot of those newer distilleries will have matured liquid coming on to the market for the first time. This is in addition to existing distilleries ramping up production,” a spokesperson told the Times. “We are the fastest-growing spirit category in the world and are ahead of our 2020 target. We look forward to maintaining double-digit growth and to diversifying into new markets, something which is increasingly important given the introduction of trade barriers.”

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Ilen River Partners, a capital growth fund managing group, launched an “Irish Whiskey Growth Fund” to support the industry with an initial $15 million CAD in capital available for “whiskey stock financing loans and intends to grow as required to meet demand.”

“Whiskey distilleries are playing an ever more vital role within the Irish economy,” Fearghal O’Riordain of Ilen River Partners said in a statement. “There were just two whiskey distilleries on the island in the early 1980s. There are now 18 distilleries in operation, with more distilleries in the pipeline, all contributing to Irish tourism, agriculture, trade and exports.”

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The groups predicts that exports of Irish whiskey will reach over $3 billion CAD by 2020.

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