In a bizarre quirk of shortages related to the ongoing pandemic, there has been virtually no bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey in a western Montana bar for nearly two months.
That’s according to several bar owners and liquor store managers.
Even in Butte, with its rich Irish history, the next St. Patrick’s Day celebration is unlikely to feature the coveted spirit.
“We’re down to two precious bottles left that we saved for St. Patrick’s Day,” said Lacey Clements, bartender at Maloney’s, an Irish bar on Main Street. “It will be first come, first served. All the liquor stores came out and they told us more bottles are still in about a month.
James “Pops” Jones, 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 we don’t get anything from what they get out of it,” he said. “Grizzly Liquor gets its inventory from the state. I heard there’s nothing coming soon. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Some of the other bourbons have been out for six months.
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Jones has other Irish whiskeys like Tullamore DEW, but he typically sells around 10 cases of 12 bottles 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 Thomas Meagher Bar, an Irish pub in Missoula, said they had also been away from the original Jameson for more than a month. They have lots of other Jameson products, like Black Barrel and an aged stout edition, so she said customers are compelled to try new whiskey flavors.
Yet, she says, they get a request for the original almost every day.
Jackson Satt of 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 when they would have Jameson.
People come almost every day looking for Jameson, he said.
“For a lot of bars in the city, Jameson is really important to bar sales,” he said. “A lot of places are using Jameson for their ‘beer and shot’ thing around town. So it’s really affecting drinking. We’re probably dealing with a dozen cases, easy, every week at least.
By law, any spirit must mature on the island of Ireland for three years in order to be called Irish. Jameson’s website states that their original Irish Whiskey is at least four years old, but there is no acknowledgment of a 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 full, either. A bartender at Cassidy’s Bar and Lounge in Plentywood, in the far northeast of the state, said they had plenty.
The Missoulian emailed the Montana Department of Revenue, which controls liquor distribution in Montana, asking why Montana can’t get its hands on things. A spokeswoman said she would try to get information, but that did not happen as of press time Wednesday.
Montana is one of 17 “alcohol control” states, where the state government regulates the sales of liquor, beer, and wine by acting as the sole wholesaler of liquor 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 alcohol shortages during the pandemic, according to a National Public Radio report last year. This is due to supply chain issues, such as rising shipping costs, but also because producers have to anticipate demand several years in advance.
Jones at the press in Missoula said the Jameson shortage was just another headache caused by the pandemic.
“We couldn’t get giant chicken wings for a while either,” he said. “There are a lot of things like that on the restaurant side. It’s ridiculous. It’s been an interesting few years, I’ll tell you.