By DAVID ERICKSON
MISSOULA, Montana (Missoulian) — In a strange quirk of ongoing pandemic-related shortages, there has hardly been a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey to be found at any bar in western Montana for nearly two months.
That’s according to multiple bar owners and liquor store managers.
Even in Butte, with its rich Irish history, the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebration will most likely not feature the coveted spirit.
“We only have two precious bottles left that we’ve been saving for St. Patrick’s Day,” said Lacey Clements, a bartender at Maloney’s, an Irish bar on Main Street. “It’ll be first-come, first-served. All of the liquor stores are out and they’ve told us any more bottles are still a month or so away.”
James “Pops” Jones, a co-owner of The Press Box bar and liquor store in Missoula, said he’s been out of Jameson for about a month and a half.
“We get all of our stuff from Grizzly Liquor, so whatever they’re out of we don’t get,” he said. “Grizzly Liquor gets their inventory from the state. I’ve heard there’s nothing coming in soon. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Some of the other bourbons have been out for six months.”
Jones has other Irish whiskeys like Tullamore D.E.W., but he usually sells about 10 12-bottle cases a month of Jameson.
“We usually go through a bottle of Jameson every other day, depending on the time of year,” Jones explained.
Adie Smith, a bartender at the Thomas Meagher Bar, an Irish pub in Missoula, said they’ve also been out of the original Jameson for over a month. They have plenty of the other Jameson products, like Black Barrel and an aged stout edition, so she said customers are being forced to try new flavors of the whiskey.
Still, she said, they get a request for the original almost every day.
Jackson Satt at Grizzly Liquor, a state-contracted liquor store in Missoula, said Jameson ran out before Christmas.
“We are one of two state stores in Missoula — the other is KrisCo Liquor,” he explained. “We get our inventory on a semi every week and it comes from the state warehouse. They don’t have an estimated date of when they would have Jameson.”
People come in almost every day looking for Jameson, he said.
“For a lot of the bars in town, Jameson is really important for bar sales,” he said. “A lot of places use Jameson for their ‘beer and a shot’ thing around town. So it’s really affecting alcohol consumption. We go through probably a dozen cases, easy, every week at least.”
By law, any spirit must mature on the island of Ireland for three years to be able to call itself Irish. Jameson’s website says their original Irish Whiskey is aged at least four years, but there’s no acknowledgement of any shortage.
The problem appears to be unique to Montana. The Idaho State Liquor Store on Sherman Avenue in Coeur d’Alene had Jameson on Wednesday, as did Discount Liquor in Evanston, Wyoming. Not everywhere in Montana is sold out, either. A bartender at Cassidy’s Bar and Lounge in Plentywood, in the far northeast corner of the state, said they had plenty.
The Missoulian sent an email to the Montana Department of Revenue, which controls liquor distribution in Montana, asking why Montana can’t get hold of the stuff. A spokesperson said she would try to get information but that didn’t happen as of press time Wednesday.
Montana is one of 17 “alcoholic beverage control” states, where the state government regulates liquor, beer and wine sales by acting as the only wholesaler of alcoholic beverages in addition to issuing licenses. However, in Montana, the state is only in charge of wholesale operations for distilled spirits. Idaho and Wyoming are also control states.
Many states are experiencing liquor shortages during the pandemic, according to a report by National Public Radio last year. That’s due to supply chain issues, like increased shipping costs, but also because producers have to anticipate demand many years in advance.
Jones at the Press Box in Missoula said the Jameson shortage is just another headache caused by the pandemic.
“We couldn’t get jumbo chicken wings for a while either,” he said. “There’s a lot of things like that on the restaurant side of it. It’s ridiculous. It’s been an interesting couple years, I’ll tell you that.”
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