REPORTS that the world is running out of single malt Scotch whisky have been comprehensively rubbished by the industry in Scotland.

Newspapers and broadcasters alike have been carrying stories claiming single malt is in short supply – with some even predicting it might run out – while other so-called "experts" were quoted as saying there could be a shortage for as long as 15 years.

However, trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) says the industry is confident that it can meet the demand for single malt in years to come.

The confusion seems to have arisen due to a simple misunderstanding.

The original source of the story – a CNN Money report – clearly stated that the shortage was of "old" single malt. In other words, single malts distilled and bottled 12 to 20 years ago, and often much older, which have suddenly become a major fad in the Asian drinks market.

The follow-up reports caused a great deal of head-scratching in distilleries and bottling plants across Scotland, because it is well known that such single malts grow rarer through time – some people even drink them – and thus become more expensive as they are only produced in limited batches.

One industry source told The National: “Why is this news? It’s like saying you are running out of Rembrandts or Ferraris – there are only a limited amount of these bottles produced in any one year, and distilleries can’t go back and start them again.”

Some of the prices are certainly on a par with the best of Ferrari’s output – in 2014 in Hong Kong a decanter holding Macallan "M" whisky sold for US$628,205 at Sotheby’s.

The fact that the CNN story featured Rickesh Kishnani was a clue that reports should have concentrated on existing aged bottles of single malt.

Kishnani founded the Platinum Whisky Investment Fund, which buys up rare aged malts purely as an investment. While gold dipped in value by 10 per cent in 2015, collectable malts rose by 14 per cent. “The shortage of old and rare single malt has already started”

Kishnani told CNN, “and it’s going to get worse.”

Well he would say that, wouldn’t he? But he’s not far wrong.

It is a fact that no-one in the Scotch whisky industry 20 years ago foresaw the explosion in global interest in single malt Scotch, which has to be the product of a single distillery and is usually aged in barrels for much longer than the statutory three years.

Asia now accounts for one-fifth of all Scotch exports, buying up a quarter of a billion bottles a year, according to the Scotch Whisky Association, with a growing proportion of those imports being single malts.

"In China, everybody is talking about it,” said Stephen Notman of investment firm the Whisky Corporation. “Nobody thought in a million years that there would be a market there for 30- to 40-year-old whisky.”

The SWA says global single malt exports jumped 159 per cent between 2004 and 2014, while the Distilled Spirits Council of the USA confirmed that sales of single malts more than doubled between 2002 and 2015.

The news of the success of single malt could be a boost to the SWA’s campaign for a two per cent cut in tax on whisky in this week’s Budget, which it says will mean more jobs here and more income for the Exchequer from abroad.

The SWA said last night: “Scotch Whisky is a global success story and distillers work hard to meet future demand. Ours is a long-term industry, with spirit having to be matured for at least three years.

“In anticipation of increased demand, including the rise in popularity of single malt, the industry has invested billions over decades in new warehouses, bottling halls, expanding existing distilling sites and improving infrastructure.

“The industry plans its production and is confident it can meet demand.”