The World Is Running Low on Single Malt Whisky, Experts Warn

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Scotch producers are struggling to meet the high demand for single malt whisky, which must be aged for at least three years

Low whisky levels, which continue to drive up prices, could last for another 15 years. 

The global demand for single malt Scotch whisky is so high that distilleries can’t meet the demand — and the problem could last another 15 years, according to experts.

In the U.S., annual sales of single malt whisky — whisky distilled from a single distillery rather than multiple, which is called “blended malt” — nearly tripled between 2002 and 2015, while global exports rose 159 percent between 2004 and 2014, according to the Scotch Whisky Association. One-fifth of all exports of Scotch go to Asia, which consumes a quarter of a billion bottles each year.

The problem lies in the nature of Scotch — by law, all Scotch whisky must be aged for three years, and most are aged a minimum of five years. The longer Scotch has been aged, the more valuable it is, and top whiskies may have been aged for upwards of 50 years. In 2010, a Macallan whisky aged for 64 years sold at auction for $460,000, which was then the world record.

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To meet the demand, whisky distilleries like Macallan, Highland Park, and Oban have made some headway by offering labels that do not mention the age of the whisky. “We are currently working at full capacity — seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Charlie Whitfield, a brand manager for Macallan, told CNN Money. “We just need to be patient and allow those casks to work their magic.”