Americans Are Guzzling Bourbon Like It's the '70s

Bourbon: no longer the drink of choice for just wild west gunslingers and Southern gentlemen. According to a report in the Associated Press, bourbon is the current de rigueur drink for Americans (and drinkers abroad), causing a boom in sales for bourbon distilleries in the billions of dollars a year.

What are we doing with all this bourbon? Drinking the fuck out of it, of course. According to the AP and a report in Fortune in February, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey are flying off the shelves like it's the 1970s again, the last time bourbon was at this level of popularity.

Last year, Kentucky distilleries filled 1.2 million barrels of bourbon — the most since 1970, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association. Inventory has topped 5 million barrels for the first time since 1977, the group said.

Production has surged by more than 150 percent in the past 15 years in Kentucky — home to 95 percent of the world's bourbon production.

As a means to fulfill the demand, distilleries are taking to overproducing their stores so that they can be prepared to sell through the demand years later. Will this work? Hm, last time it didn't!

The last time the industry spiked production in the 1970s, distillers ended up with a glut when demand went in a tailspin.

Back then, the industry had grown stale and many consumers switched allegiance to vodka, Scotch and other spirits.

"You had the same old brands, you were pretty much on autopilot," Morris said.

But the producers know how to grab OkCupid-using, mason jar-owning millenials: through small batch premium production and cool twists on old standards. This may be the reason for high sales last year: the bourbon and Tennessee whiskey industries reached a whopping $2.4 billion. Additional interest from foreign markets like China appear to contribute to bourbon's growth.

Bill Samuels Jr., retired top executive at Maker's Mark told the AP, "It doesn't feel like a fad. It feels like a legitimate trend," which sounds like the beautiful slurred philosophizing of someone who has perhaps drank too much bourbon.

[Image via AP]