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Scotch Whisky Shortages Feared As Asian And Latin American Demand Rises

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The Scotch whisky industry is like the Titanic. It's big, famous, awash in money and sees a lot of action in the North Atlantic. The Scotch whisky industry and the Titanic also share a marked difficulty responding quickly to adversity.

In the case of the Titanic, this was a product of the ship's huge size and consequent momentum; any James Cameron fan can tell you that this momentum made it difficult to avoid icebergs. The whisky industry's lassitude, on the other hand, is a function of its product's long aging times. The Glenfidditch or Johnnie Walker Blue you buy at your local liquor store was originally produced over a decade ago, and then laboriously aged in oak casks. This lengthy maturation process means that a spike in demand for whisky can't immediately be offset by a commensurate increase in supply.

According to the Guardian, Scotch demand is spiking right now, thanks to an expansion of the Asian and Latin American middle class and a gradual reduction in import tariffs on whisky. These factors have led some in the industry to fear a serious shortage in the whisky supply -- one that will be hard, if not impossible, to address in the near term.

Another factor that may contribute to the problem, at least down the road, is last year's drought in Scotland. Last summer, producers in Islay reported difficulty getting enough fresh water to make the mash that eventually becomes Scotch whisky.

It's hard to tell how much drinkers should be worrying about the possibility of a shortage, though. Producers have been sounding the alarm for years -- could they be crying wolf to try to justify higher prices?

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