Each day there are scientists around the world working to solve global warming. Medical researchers run clinical trials on all sorts of new drugs designed to help fight all sorts of diseases. And there are economists and aid groups trying to combat poverty in the Third World.
All important issues very much worth solving, I will grant you that. However, later this year farmers, maltsters and distillers will meet in the United Kingdom in an effort to solve one of the most perplexing problems we will face during the next 20 years: where will all of the whisky come from?
The Maltsters Association of Great Britain is convening the meeting to discuss how to handle demand from existing markets as well as the new thirst for Scotch from places like China, India and Russia. Solving the problem is important to all drinkers, especially if you want to be able to afford a bottle of 18 year old 18 years from now.
The growing middle and upper classes in these countries drive demand for all luxury goods and raw materials like steel. Products like wine and Cognac have seen growth skyrocket from these markets. The problem for the makers of Scotch is that they need to correctly forecast demand as much as 20 years down the road. Build too fast and the weight of mortgage payments on unused distillery space can be crushing. Build too slow and you miss out on huge potential profits or risk upsetting when supplies run low.
Distillers have begun to build new production capacity and have even reopened several long-closed distilleries. Still, whisky that is made today is years away from the market. Hopefully the talks later this year will produce a framework for increasing production so that we can be sure the next generation can still get a wee dram.