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  • Writer's pictureVik F.

The American Whiskey Tariff Tango

As whiskey connoisseurs savor the rich, oaky flavors of their favorite American bourbons and ryes, there's a political storm brewing that might just dampen the spirit. The age-old dance of international trade and tariffs is once again taking center stage. But this isn't just about numbers; it's about legacy, culture, and the shared enjoyment of a drink that transcends borders.

Back in June 2018, in response to U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum, the European Union introduced a 25% retaliatory tariff on American whiskeys. This move caused a significant chill in transatlantic whiskey sales, with exports plunging by 20% over a few years. From a peak of $552 million in 2018, revenues dipped to $440 million by 2021. However, in a hopeful twist for whiskey enthusiasts and producers alike, the EU chose to suspend this tariff starting January 2022. The result? A delightful rebound, with exports surging 29% that year, even surpassing pre-tariff levels.

Yet, the celebration might be short-lived. Recent talks at the U.S.-EU Presidential Summit in October 2023 didn't yield the desired results. With no agreement in sight, American whiskey might face a renewed and doubled tariff of 50% come January 1, 2024. Distillers, especially craft producers, are understandably jittery. As Chris Swonger, president of the Distilled Spirits Council, aptly puts it, the thought of returning tariffs is "terrifying for US distillers." As whiskey lovers, let's raise a glass to hope and shared understanding, wishing for smoother sailing in the choppy waters of international trade.



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