My Scotch drinking comrades, I am sad to report that we are now seeing the unfortunate effects of the recently imposed tariffs on our precious single malts.
As most of you already know, the US began imposing a 25% tariff on Scotch whisky. (If you need to catch up on this news, read THIS article from Whisky Advocate.) On average I’ve seen bottle prices jumping $8-10 cost per bottle in the new year from our distributors. Even sadder still is that these tariffs affect not just Scotch whisky but a host of other European spirits as well, including Irish whiskey, brandy (cognac and armagnac) and liqueurs.
Many importers and retailers stocked up on products upon first hearing the news in early fall. But most of those stores have run dry, and the new price increase is now in full swing. Some producers and importers are doing their best to mitigate the fallout by putting off price increases in hopes that the tariffs will soon be reversed, or absorbing a portion of the cost themselves. The folks who seem to be taking the biggest hit are smaller, lesser known brands who can’t afford to risk losing customers over a sudden spike in cost. I’ve seen most of the initial wave of increases take place in more established brands and producers, such as Diageo owned malts, where they likely know consumers are loyal and will return despite the inflated price.
Are we now at a pivotal moment in taxation history where Americans will start drinking a new category of spirit? American produced single malts are typically just as expensive, if not sometimes more, and typically much younger, so I can’t quite see them being a direct substitute or even a suitable one. But maybe Scotch fans will give the category a second look. Is it finally rum’s time to shine? Or, since the tariffs don’t include blended whisky, perhaps we apologetically show up at the doorstep of our much maligned friend, blended scotch, asking for forgiveness. Hopefully we’ll see a reversal at some point on this policy, but in the meantime, there will be sticker shock to endure while we weather the changes.
(And stay tuned for some great blended Scotch recommendations!)
Written by Nat Harry
Nat Harry is the former spirit buyer and used to curate the spirits portfolio at Cask stores, including selecting many of the shop’s single barrels and agave club offerings. A career bartender, Nat fell in love with artisan spirits while running a farm to table bar program at Berkeley’s Revival Bar & Kitchen, and has received accolades including the East Bay Express award for Best Bartender in the East Bay.