US spirits exports reach record high

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

American Whiskey makes up some 60% of US spirits exports. Pic:getty/didyk
American Whiskey makes up some 60% of US spirits exports. Pic:getty/didyk

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US spirits exports in 2023 were boosted by the EU’s suspension of tariffs on American Whiskeys.

The American Spirits Export Report, released by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, show that US spirits exports totaled $2.2bn in 2023, up 8% compared to the previous year. 

American Whiskeys, which account for 63% of all US spirits exports, increased by 9% over 2022 to reach a record $1.4bn.

Collateral damage

The US spirits industry – along with its counterparts in the EU – have suffered for years as collateral damage to disputes in the aircraft and steel aluminum industries​.

Tariffs were imposed on American Whiskeys by the EU and UK in July 2018, and began to be lifted in 2021​. A clear decline was seen over this period (down from $1.8bn in 2018 to $1.4bn in 2020) before rising again to today’s $2.2bn. 

“This latest report shows that U.S. exports are continuing to rebuild after plummeting from the devastating retaliatory tariffs on American spirits imposed by the EU and UK,” explained Rob Maron, DISCUS vice president of international trade, as the organization released the 2023 export report yesterday.

“The tariffs imposed from 2018-2021 as part of two separate disputes between the U.S., EU and UK have since been suspended or removed, presenting U.S. spirits producers with an opportunity to recapture lost market share in some of the U.S.’ largest export markets.

"Over the span of two years, American Whiskey exports to the EU surged by more than 60%, climbing from $439m in 2021 to $705m in 2023.”

Long-term trends for premium products are also helping US spirits exports: benefiting premium and super-premium American spirits products. The increase in distillery numbers is also a contributing factor: going from fewer than 100 in 2005 to more than 2,600 today.

Around 40% of US spirits are exported to the EU, totaling $883m and making it the US’ largest export market. Total US spirits exports to the EU grew 24% in 2023 compared to the prior year.

The EU is followed by Canada ($262m); Mexico ($139m); Australia ($138m); and the UK ($129m).

American Whiskeys make up 63% of all spirits exports in value terms and 34% in volume terms. The top five markets for American Whiskeys are the EU ($705m); Australia ($121m); Japan ($106m); the UK ($86m); and Canada ($76m).

However, tariffs remain an ongoing issue for the spirits industry.

In December, the EU announced that it would continue the suspension of tariffs on American Whiskeys in the steel and aluminum dispute for 15 months,​ until March 31, 2025. But if no agreement is reached, the EU will reimpose its tariff on American Whiskeys at 50%, up from the previously imposed 25%.

 “We urge the Biden administration to continue working to secure the permanent removal of these tariffs,” said Maron. “The EU’s 15-month tariff suspension is welcome news, but the uncertainty for the future continues to hold craft distillers back from exporting their spirits.”

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