After 3 years, Whiskey Tariffs End

Over the past three years, American whiskey exports dropped 37 percent, from $702 million to $440 million due to European Union tariffs.

With bourbon being in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s backyard, after Trump’s steel tariffs, European lawmakers hit American industry where key political leaders lived.

Most hurt by the tariffs were smaller brands, such as Catoctin Creek, and Jack Daniel’s, which Brown-Forman cited losing $125-million a year.

For the most part, however, the industry shifted toward domestic demand. Once export-only brands, such as Blanton’s Gold, found themselves on American shelves. And the industry survived what could have been a catastrophic trade war.

Prominent industry leaders made this their priority the past three years, and the tariff removal was a welcomed move. Here are some key statements.

Statement by Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Chris Swonger 

“After three very difficult years of sagging American Whiskey exports, the EU and U.S. are back to a zero-for-zero tariff agreement on distilled spirits, which has been instrumental to our export success and job creation on both sides of the Atlantic since 1997.

“Lifting this tariff burden on American Whiskeys not only boosts U.S. distillers and farmers, it also supports the recovery of EU restaurants, bars and distilleries hit hard by the pandemic.  

“With the removal of these EU tariffs, we are energized and ready to ramp up our American Whiskey promotions in the EU to re-introduce America’s native spirits to EU consumers and resume a great American export success story.

“Since the imposition of the EU tariffs, American Whiskey exports to the EU, the U.S. spirits industry’s largest export market, have plunged 37 percent, from $702 million to $440 million (2018-2020). We have a long way to go, but are fully committed to building back American Whiskeys better in the EU.

“Cheers to the Biden administration for their dogged determination to reset trade relations with the EU and bring a stop to the needless damage being done to U.S. businesses caught up in this trade war. The end of this long tariff nightmare is in sight for U.S. distillers, who have struggled with the weight of the tariffs and the pandemic. It’s time for the UK to lift its tariff on American Whiskeys so we can all get back to toasts, not tariffs.”  

Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory Statement:

“The Kentucky Distillers’ Association and its 51 member companies are thrilled at the announcement that the U.S. and the E.U. have agreed to remove retaliatory tariffs on Kentucky Bourbon and American Whiskey. And it couldn’t have come at a better time: the 25% tariff was set to double on Dec. 1.


“These unfortunate tariffs have slashed exports of Kentucky Bourbon by 50% to the E.U. and the United Kingdom, costing distillers, industry partners and farm families hundreds of millions of dollars. Kentucky Bourbon exports had enjoyed double-digit growth for a decade before the tariffs were imposed in 2018.

“Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most historic and treasured industries, a $8.6 billion economic and tourism engine that generates more than 20,000 good-paying jobs each year with a $1 billion payroll and welcomes nearly two million people a year to the KDA’s world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experiences. 

“Kentucky distillers also are in the middle of a $5.1 billion building spree to meet the growing global thirst for America’s only native spirit. There are now a record 10.3 million barrels of Bourbon aging in Kentucky, the most in the Commonwealth’s 200-year distilling history.

“The KDA thanks the steadfast leadership of the Biden Administration, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Congressman John Yarmuth and officials in Europe for their tireless efforts to resolve this ongoing trade dispute and to restore fairness in overseas markets for Kentucky’s signature distilled spirits industry.

With the suspension of the E.U. tariffs, we urge leaders from both the U.S. and U.K. to resolve their own tariff dispute so our legendary distillers can return at long last to doing what they do best – crafting the finest Bourbon for all the world to enjoy.”

Chief Executive Officer, Brown-Forman Corporation 

“Brown-Forman applauds the Biden Administration for today’s announcement between the U.S. and the EU regarding steel and aluminum tariffs. This agreement delivers on the Administration’s promise to rebuild the Transatlantic alliance by removing  tariffs on American whiskey and other U.S. exports, which have been in place now for more than three years.

“We would like to thank Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Ambassador Katherine Tai, their counterparts in the EU, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their efforts in helping reach this positive resolution. 

“Brown-Forman looks forward to the return of a level playing field on January 1, 2022, and continued international growth for American Whiskey. We hope a similar outcome can soon be achieved between the U.S. and the UK.”

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