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Bourbon Alliance calls on UK government to scrap whiskey tariffs

Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Brown-Forman have joined forces with the Bourbon Alliance to call on the UK government for the removal of tariffs on US whiskey.

Imports of US whiskey to the UK are currently subject to a 25 per cent import tax, caused by an ongoing trade dispute over steel. The tariff was implemented in 2018 - a time when US whiskey sales were growing exponentially in the UK, with more than £121 million worth of US whiskey and Bourbon imported in 2017 - and has had a significant knock-on effect on US whiskey sales in the UK.

The Bourbon Alliance is coalition of industry stakeholders including distillers, restaurants, retailers, wholesalers and consumers. As part of the campaign it is calling on the hospitality sector to sign up to the campaign and help 'Free the Spirit' from tariffs.

The alliance has united hospitality industry organisations and figures on both sidesof the Atlantic, with growing calls for decisive action on the tariffs to support the industry in a time of especial need.

Martha Dalton, founder of the Bourbon Alliance, said: "The Free The Spirit Campaign has already galvanised the hospitality industry and shown the united call for the government to cut the tariff.

"The hospitality industry has been hit harder by the pandemic than almost any other sector in the UK; venues have been closed for the majority of the year with 10,000 licensed premises shutting their doors for good. On top of this, UK consumers have paid over £55m in tariffs on imported American whiskies. This has hit investment in the hospitality industry when it needs it most, deterred new customers from exploring the world of Bourbon and prevented fans of quality American whiskey and Bourbon from enjoying their favourite drinks.

"We were delighted to see the Department for International Trade negotiate the resolution of the Boeing – Airbus dispute and are now calling on the government to continue the momentum in transatlantic trade discussions, and to remove the tariff on US whiskey at the time when the sector needs it most."

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."

Find out more about the Bourbon Alliance's campaign at

News of the campaign comes just weeks after the announcement of a five-year suspension on tariffs on Scotch whisky, following the conclusion of a UK-US deal on future aerospace subsidies. Imports of single malt Scotch whisky to the US had been subject to a 25 per cent import tariff, which the Scotch Whisky Association estimated had cost £600 million in exports.

Of the new deal, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive Karen Betts said: "This deal removes the threat of tariffs being reimposed on Scotch whisky next month and enables distillers to focus on recovering exports to our largest and most valuable export market."

25 June 2021 - Bethany Whymark