Could A Strike At Jim Beam Distilleries Mean A Whiskey Shortage?

Image courtesy of Andrew*

More than 200 union workers went on strike over the weekend at two Jim Beam distilleries in Kentucky after voting to reject the most recent contract offer from the world’s top bourbon producer. Does that mean we could see a shortage of the stuff in the future?

Beam, which is now called Beam Suntory and owned by Japanese beverage company, Suntory, Ltd., says that contingency plans will keep operations up and running and keep the whiskey flowing to consumers and distributors despite the walkout, the Associated Press reports. The company didn’t give specifics, however.

“Given our inventories and contingency plans, we currently do not anticipate shortages of Jim Beam or any other products made at these facilities,” David Hunter, chief supply chain officer for Beam Suntory, said in a statement.

But some of the workers are skeptical that whatever Beam does, efficiency will suffer without union workers steering the ship. A whiskey ship.

“If Jim Beam wants to put the product out with the quality that we’ve done in my 47 years, it has to have our help to do it, so it’s done right,” one worker told the AP.

After all, making whiskey isn’t an easy job, a bourbon author and historian tells the AP: the strike could have an impact in the short-term in jobs that involve removing mature whiskey that’s been aging in barrels stored in what’s known as a rickhouse, and bottling the liquor.

“You can’t just get Johnny off the street to come in to do this,” Fred Minnick explained. “If you don’t know how to roll a barrel in a rickhouse, you’re going to lose a thumb.”

Whiskey workers strike at 2 Beam distilleries in Kentucky [Associated Press]

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