If you are wondering what the future holds for bourbon, look to wine. Wine hoarding has become a status symbol for decades, with rare bottles auctioning off for 6 figures. With the bourbon boom heating up, we can expect to see the same on the horizon for America’s spirit.

Ready for Elmer T. Lee at $500 a bottle?

From BI:

The Wall Street Journal reported  that a man in Virginia has a basement bunker with 700 bottles in it.

According to the report, domestic sales are up 36% since 2009, and international exports are up more than 50% since 2010.

A representative for the Beverage Information & Insights Group, which tracks the industry, told Business Insider that sales grew 6.7% in 2013 alone.

That’s a lot, but not enough to threaten big bourbon production. Jim Beam and Jack Daniels are going to be fine, partially because there’s so much more supply of mass market whiskeys and partially because they aren’t aged very long — only about four years — so there’s less of a time lag for supply to catch up to demand if it starts increasing rapidly.

But older and small-batch whiskey is starting to feel the pinch. And that’s why big enthusiasts have started to hoard. According to The Journal, “panic has gripped bourbon enthusiasts across the country, and they are amassing stockpiles of it, hoping to guard against shortages and price hikes.”

But is the bourbon shortage even legit? The hype started with one of the greatest distilleries on Earth – Buffalo Trace.

“Yes, I can assure you the bourbon shortage is VERY real, not a ploy at all,” a spokesperson from Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace Distillery said.  “Our intent was never to get people worked up, or to start hoarding it, we [informed people] out of a very genuine desire to let people know this was on the horizon.”

The spokesperson said 17.6 million cases of whiskey were sold in 2013, and that figure “is expected to reach its 20 million case high in the next few years.”

The rot gut should be safe, so no need to hoard Old Crow or Lexington Bourbon. But for bourbons aged for an appreciable length of time, demand may well outstrip supply.

Get ready to play the Pappy lotto for Blantons, Bookers, and BTAC!

Do you hoard? Have you noticed your favorites disappearing? What are your predictions for the future of the bourbon supply? Leave a comment below!