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Buffalo Trace is about “100,000 barrels short” of where it needs to be

Mark Brown the CEO of Sazerac has told The Spirits Business that the continuing high demand for Bourbon means that Buffalo Trace is still around 100,000 barrels short of where it needs to be.

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection
Buffalo Trace is around 100,000 barrels short

In May the brand warned of a Bourbon shortage as it struggles to keep up with demand and sent out a reminder of that warning in August as demand continues to outweigh supply.

Speaking to sb recently Brown said: “We have about one million barrels in storage and if I could buy or magic about another 100,000 barrels to go on the roof, I readily do that.

“We are about 100,000 barrels short of where we need to be and demand is continuing to escalate. With Pappy van winkle I could probably sell 10 times as much.”

Brown added that as well as supply concerns the Bourbon boom means that Sazerac could soon be facing storage problems as well.

He told sb: “We’re currently looking ahead to 2047, because in looking that far ahead you need to figure out what you are going to need in terms of things like storage space, which is really one of the biggest constraints that we face. We run out of barrel warehousing space in 2017. So we’re going to have to build and renovate and that is not cheap.

“And we have to do all of that while not knowing what will happen in the market. The Bourbon craze could come and go, although I don’t think that it will.”

The storage issues, as well as a strong drive towards innovation and experimentation has led the team at Buffalo Trace to the decision to build what it is calling “Warehouse X”. This five-compartment warehouse is helping the brand to understand what are the best conditions for storing Bourbon.

Mark Brown
Sazerac CEO Mark Brown

Brown said: “Who knows anything about warehouse design? Ours were built in the 1885 and so we thought we’d look at what was the best was to warehouse the whisky and decided to build Warehouse X.

“It has five compartments to it, each is self contained and will hold around 40 barrels. Number one will measure sunlight, so it has glass roof and all those barrels will see is sunlight. The next compartment over will measure temperature, it will hold temperature absolutely constant. The next one will blow air over the barrels, so we have a giant hair dryer in there, the fourth one is going to measure humidity, so we’ll pump moisture in there and the fifth compartment, which is in the middle is ambient, outside.”

Brown admitted he will be slightly annoyed if ambient storage proves to be the best “and all we ever needed was a field.”

He added: “We’re hopeful that we’ll learn some really important things about warehouse design. It takes 20 years to go through a full cycle of experiments but I’ll be able to tell you in two years that we’ll have a pretty good idea which and what works.”

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