New ‘Free The Spirit’ Campaign Launched to Cut Bourbon Tariffs

let’s begin

Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and Brown-Forman have joined with The Bourbon Alliance - an army of distillers, restaurants and pubs, retailers, wholesalers, and US Whiskey fans - to urge the British Government to remove the 25% tariff on imported US Whiskey caused by a trade dispute over steel. The campaign is calling on the hospitality sector to sign up to the campaign and to help Free the Spirit from tariffs.

The Bourbon Alliance is a coalition of industry stakeholders whose livelihoods depend on being able to import US Whiskey into the UK. Supporters of the campaign to #FreeTheSpirit include some of the best known, household names, as well as an army of independent distillers, hospitality venues across the UK, retailers, distributors, festival organisers, and Bourbon fans.

UK and the US have been able to trade their whiskies tariff free across the Atlantic for over quarter of a century. In recent years, the market for Bourbon and Whiskey imported from the United States has grown exponentially, with the UK becoming the US’ largest export market for these products, a demand that saw the UK import over £121m worth of US Bourbon and Whiskey in 2017.

However, in 2018, a controversial 25% steel ‘rebalancing tariff’ was imposed by the EU on all imported Bourbon and other Whiskey from the USA. The UK has chosen to maintain these tariffs since leaving the EU, resulting in UK imports of Bourbon dropping by 53% since June 2018. Given the size of the market for US Bourbon and Whiskey, British consumers were footing the bill for Europe, fronting 22.8% of the total EU whiskey tariffs (on €203m of US exports) and continue to be collateral damage in the ongoing UK-US dispute over steel.

On 24 May, the UK Government launched a public consultation into the tariff, stating it was looking “at ensuring any future tariffs applied are shaped to UK interests.” International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss MP said: “We want to deescalate these disputes so we can move forward and work closely with the US on issues like WTO reform and tackling unfair trade practices by non-market economies.”

The Bourbon Alliance’s campaign has united the hospitality sector on both sides of the Atlantic, calling for decisive action to further support the industry in its time of need. The campaign says the future of its supporters depends on their ability to import US Whiskey, and at present, the financial burden of the tariff presents a threat which has already seen many businesses collapse and has slashed the revenue of those who have survived.

Tags: Bourbon TariffsFree The SpiritThe Bourbon Alliance


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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