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Whisky Advocate: Scotch Importers And Distillers Struggle Against U.S. Whisky Tariffs

November 5, 2019

Leading single malt Scotch whiskies could soon carry a heftier price tag thanks to 25% tariffs the U.S. began imposing on October 18. The tariffs, which stem from a 15-year international fight over the airplane industry, target around $7.5 billion of European goods—including single malt Scotch and single malt whiskies from Northern Ireland. “This is a really serious situation for the industry,” Scotch Whisky Association strategy and communications director Graeme Littlejohn tells Whisky Advocate. “And particularly for our small and mid-size member companies, who predominantly deal in single malt.”

Littlejohn notes that after the E.U. imposed a 25% retaliatory tariff on American whiskey in 2018 in response to U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, exports to the E.U. dropped by 21%. “We would expect a similar, if not larger, market loss from the more recent U.S. tariffs—something around (a) $130 million (loss) in the first year,” he says. “That would obviously be a very damaging situation for the industry as a whole.”

Before the tariffs went into effect, Sam Filmus—president and co-founder of ImpEx Beverages, which imports Islay single malts Kilchoman and Port Askaig—airfreighted 19 additional pallets of single malt to last through the holiday selling season. Moving forward, Filmus and Kilchoman founder and managing director Anthony Wills agreed to swallow the cost of the tariffs, at least through next March, splitting it 50-50 to spare consumers from higher prices. “It’s my hope and belief that the tariffs are temporary,” Filmus says. “However, we need to be prepared for the worst.” Whisky Advocate has the full story.—Zak Kostro

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