The Tariffs

I’m not going to go into much depth here or give any opinions, I just wanted to give a heads up to anyone who hasn’t already heard: The US, in an ongoing spat with the EU over airline subsidies, has announced – in retribution – a set of tariffs against retail products imported from the EU/UK into the US. These tariffs start 10/18/2019 in the US and will add 25% (!!) to the IMPORTER’S cost in the form of an ad valorum tax. It is uncertain whether these tariffs will actually happen on the 18th, how long they will last, or how much retail customers in the US will see prices increase.

The tariffs apply to single-malt scotch (not blended scotch) and Irish single-malt whiskey (oddly, not single pot still) that is made in the UK (so, Northern Ireland). I can’t say whether you should pre-buy any single malts now against potential price increases, but I can tell you that I have filled up my cabinet with a few “rainy day” single malts that I wouldn’t want to pay 25% more for.

I have spoken to a few people in the retail liquor industry in California and they say that because the taxes hit the importer, their markups could get amplified (compounded) by the distributor and retailer markups. In other words, we could see price increases of MORE than 25% at the shelves. There’s still a lot of uncertainty, and more retailers won’t know what effect these tariffs will have until they get updated price sheets from their distributors. Furthermore, nobody knows what effect Brexit might or might not have on this dispute.

Good luck out there.

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  • Note: I will shut down any political arguments in the comments – and that includes editing peoples’ comments. This is not the place for it.

    • Good job presenting the facts. I read your blog because it’s informative and generally a lot of fun. I like the way you handled this more serious issue. Mainstream media might be able to learn a thing or two from you. Out of curiosity, what are your rainy day malts?

  • Based on the last few years, tariffs on US allies have been very short lived if they took effect at all.

    So hopefully everyone’s cabinet can weather the storm.

  • We had a whisky renaissance, and we strangled it in it’s cradle. It’s a huge problem that the people who make laws and run governments these days are often teetotalers.

  • I just returned from my weekly trip to Total Wine and was informed that the tariffs will not effect what’s currently on the shelf or what’s already in stock. They have been buying, and will continue to buy as much as possible until October 18th. Therefore the prices on most readily available whisky will remain the same for the foreseeable future. So as usual, small independent retailers are likely to be hit the hardest. I did buy one of their two remaining bottles of Aberlour A’bunadh batch 63 because they know that they will not get any more in before the 18th. I’ve also stocked up on various Springbank releases.

    It’s important to note that I live in New York State, which does not allow chain liquor stores. The Total Wine where I shop is owned by the corporation but operates as a separate entity. Since it can’t even be accessed on the Total Wine website, I’m not sure if this will be their policy everywhere.

    • I hope you’re right, but I’m not that optimistic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see prices begin to increase fairly quickly because of supply issues, if for no other reason. This is such a major change announced so suddenly, and with virtually no delay between announcement and implementation. Everybody is going to be trying to gobble up as much as they can in a very short period of time.