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

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.

stock in bars, restaurants and liquor stores. "Every week, there's stuff that's out of stock."

Straight bourbon whiskey ages a minimum of two years, though the average maturity is four years or older. Many popular super premium brands age six years or longer, which are the toughest to Nike Air Vapormax Asphalt Grey

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´╗┐Bourbon production reaches high point since '70s

Every drop of bourbon is precious for producers trying to keep up with demand.

in my lifetime," said Bill Samuels Jr., who retired after a long career as the top executive at Maker's Mark, the brand started by his parents. "It doesn't feel like a fad. It feels like a legitimate trend."

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The industry lumps bourbon and Tennessee whiskey into one category. Both are produced in the same way with similar ingredients, but Tennessee whiskeys are charcoal mellowed before going into the barrel to age, while bourbon isn't.

Now, distillers are constantly dabbling with premium small batch offerings or putting new twists Nike Air Vapormax Pure Platinum University Red on recipes and flavors and companies are looking to real time data from the digital world.

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (AP) Kentucky bourbon makers are making a big bet by stashing away their largest stockpiles in more than a generation.

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Sales trends and developments are tracked in markets worldwide. The numbers are crunched to make the best educated estimate of future consumer demand for a product that takes years to mature.

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"We are busier than I ever could have imagined," said Chris Morris, master distiller at Brown Forman Corp., producer of Woodford Reserve and Old Forester bourbons.

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.

For most in the business, the answer is not anytime soon. that currently has a taste for bourbon, which has to be aged at least two years in new charred oak barrels.

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Nike Air Vapormax Pure Platinum University Red

"If they had more, they could sell it right now," said Fred Noe, Jim Beam's master distiller and descendant of Jacob Beam, who set up his first Kentucky still in 1795.

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Nike Air Vapormax Pure Platinum University Red

Exports of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey surpassed $1 billion for the first time ever in 2013, the council said.

Expansions have occurred at Jim Beam, Evan Williams, Wild Turkey, Maker's Mark, Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve. Global liquor giant Diageo PLC recently announced plans to build a new distillery in Kentucky. Microdistilleries are getting a foothold in the state.

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Nike Air Vapormax Pure Platinum University Red

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

In early 2013, Maker's Mark caused a backlash when it announced it was cutting the amount of alcohol in each bottle to stretch its whiskey supplies. The brand known for its red wax seal quickly scrapped the idea. Volume was up nearly 7 percent to 18 million cases, it said.

Missing the target would leave bourbon makers awash with supply and leave future production in question, particularly for craft distilleries that have seen a surge in popularity.

The disparity between supply and demand has put extra pressure on the distilleries.

asking us, 'When will the bubble burst?'" said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association.

To put it in bartenders' lingo: Distillers are putting up the tab for millions of rounds of bourbon years before they are even ordered. The production poses an inherent risk, but hitting the moment right a big supply meshing with big demand could mean a serious payday for companies big and small.

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Nike Air Vapormax Pure Platinum University Red

"For many, many years, bourbon was considered a Southern gentleman's drink," said Jimmy Russell, the longtime master distiller at Wild Turkey. "Now bourbon's become a worldwide drink."

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

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