What bourbon shortage? Kentucky distilleries now have nearly 5.7 million barrels (5,669,682, to be exact) of bourbon aging in warehouses, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association.
That's the most in 40 years. The most since 1975's 5.8 million, according to the KDA.
"The last time Kentucky had this much bourbon, Jimmy Hoffa was still alive," said KDA president Eric Gregory.
If you include brandy and other whiskeys, the state's total barrel inventory hit 6.2 million in 2014, also the highest total since 1975.
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The figure was compiled from state Department of Revenue data, so it includes distilleries that aren't part of the KDA, which represents 28 of the state's distilleries, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distillers that are building upon centuries of craftsmanship and tradition.
The state keeps track because in Kentucky all those barrels are subject to taxes while they age.
According to the state, the tax-assessed value of aging barrels this year is $2.1 billion, an increase of $223 million from 2014 and more than double the value since 2006. Last year, distilleries paid $14 million in ad valorem barrel taxes last year to the state and local communities, the majority of which goes to fund education, public safety and other causes.
To fuel more industry growth, the General Assembly in 2014 approved a tax break that lets distilleries qualify for a tax credit on capital investments, beginning in 2015. Distilleries around the state are in the midst of a building boom that will see more than $1.3 billion in capital projects, including new distilleries, warehouses, bottling facilities and tourism centers in the next five years.
Production is up more than 170 percent since the turn of the century (yes, just 15 years ago) when a scant 485,020 barrels were filled in 1999.
Last year, Kentucky distilleries filled 1,306,375 barrels, the most since 1970 and the third straight year with a million barrels were filled. Most barrels will age for at least four years before they are bottled and sold.
Despite this, the rumors of a bourbon shortage persist.
Exports of bourbon were down in the first three months of 2015 by 5.5 percent by volume, down almost $20.5 million, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
Gregory said that the dip isn't likely to last, as long as they have the bourbon to meet demand.
"We are opening up more markets than ever before," he said. "There is a growing global thirst for Kentucky bourbon."
With more people drinking bourbon, the competition for some brands is hot. In the case of, say, Pappy Van Winkle, it's so fierce people will resort to crime.
But there's a great Kentucky bourbon for everybody, Gregory said.
"We clearly have more bourbon aging in Kentucky than in many of our lifetimes. It is harder to find some brands, especially if there are limited editions, and we've had some brands on allocation for 50 years. Maker's Mark comes to mind," Gregory said. "I think there's enough bourbon on hand right now and for generations to come."