US Spirits Market Ended 2020 On A High, But Tariffs Took Off Some Sheen

By Dave Simpson
US Spirits Market Ended 2020 On A High, But Tariffs Took Off Some Sheen

Domestic consumption of distilled spirits in the United States rose sharply last year, although American whiskey exports fell due to retaliatory tariffs from Europe, a US industry trade body has said.

US distillers reported a 7.7% jump in sales in 2020 to $31.2 billion, while volumes rose by 5.3% to 251 million nine litre cases, the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) said in a report.

DISCUS said that spirits are gaining market share over beer and wine, and that they now stand at 39.1% of the total US beverage alcohol market, the highest ever in the last 40 years.


However, a sore point for the industry continued to be the retaliatory tariffs of 25% slapped by Europe on American whiskey in 2018, as part of a long-running row over state subsidies for aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing.

Tariffs have curbed exports by 53% to the UK and by 38% to the EU since they were imposed in 2018, DISCUS said. In June of 2021, EU tariffs on American whiskey will be automatically raised to 50%.


"We are hopeful the Biden administration will clearly recognise the widespread damage caused by the escalation of these trade disputes," DISCUS chief of public policy Christine LoCascio said.

Across the Atlantic, European policy makers have urged President Joe Biden to drop tariffs, and last week Diageo's chief sustainability officer, Ewan Andrew, asked both sides to get together and resolve this quickly.

"We obviously want this tariff removed...as it is not a scotch dispute," Andrew said.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.