Back in 1999, annual bourbon production was at an all time low. How did we go from a mere 455,000 barrels in production back then to more than 5 million barrels in production today?
The increase in bourbon consumption came from a few different events and factors combined, but the main culprit was export growth.
In February 2002, the Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd. purchased the Four Roses brand trademark and named the new acquisition Four Roses Distillery LLC. Kirin used its global reach to spark demand for Kentucky bourbon in far away European and Asian markets. It worked. In 2011, Jim Rutledge master distiller at Four Roses noted that “We’re seeing tremendous (sales) growth, especially outside the U.S.”
Production at Wild Turkey had slowed down when its previous owner Pernod made the
rather foolish decision to close Wild Turkey’s bottling operation in 2006, and move it 700 miles away to Arkansas. That decision was reversed Wild Turkey was acquired by Italian company Gruppo Campari in 2009 and made official in 2012.This made production and distribution more efficient, and no doubt drove sales and consumption.
Then, according to Kentucky.com whiskey sales increased faster than those of vodka, gin, tequila and other spirits in 2012, for the first time in recent memory.The bourbon boom was officially on.
Other foreign companies that wanted to get in on the boom started snapping up all-American bourbon companies left and right.
Japanese company Suntory bought out Jim Beam in 2014 for a ridiculous $16 Billion, throwing fuel on the fire of global bourbon demand. That same year, Diaego took charge of producing and distributing Bulleit Bourbon, hoping to increase sales from its 2007 rate of 35,000 cases per year to ‘several million cases,’ according to Larry Schwartz, president of Diageo’s North American operations.
Today, thanks to the intervention of foreign companies, almost half of all Kentucky bourbon is shipped overseas, with the largest markets being Australia, Germany, and Japan. Combine that with domestic demand and we have a much larger market for a very limited commodity. Hence, bourbon boom.