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Free the Spirit campaign urges end of tariff wars

Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Brown-Forman have joined a new campaign urging the UK government to remove the 25% tariff on American whiskey.

Free the Spirit Bourbon campaign
More than 40 industry businesses and trade bodies have backed the Free the Spirit campaign

The trio has joined The Bourbon Alliance, an allegiance of distillers, restaurants and pubs, retailers, wholesalers and American whiskey fans, which has launched the Free the Spirit campaign.

The EU imposed a 25% tariff on American whiskey imports in retaliation to the steel and aluminium tariffs introduced by the US in 2018. The UK has maintained the tariffs since departing the EU.

According to The Bourbon Alliance, the tariffs have caused a 53% drop in American whiskey exports to the UK since June 2018.

The Bourbon Alliance is also encouraging the hospitality sector to join the campaign via the website and social media to urge the removal of the tariffs:

Free the Spirit has the support of more than 40 brands and organisations so far, including The British Bourbon Society, Wine and Spirit Trade Association, and UK bars Coupette, Bramble and the Discount Suit Company.

Nathan Dawes, co-founder of American whiskey distributor N10 Bourbons, which has backed the campaign, said: “These tariffs have been disastrous for the UK economy. As a business, we’ve taken a huge hit on our imports and have seen many of our long-standing distillery partners in the US either step back from the UK market, or go out of business altogether.

“The UK has become the largest external market for US whiskeys and we have been proud to be a part of the diverse community of consumers and distributors as this demand has grown.

“But these tariffs have seen imports stagnate, and consumer demand shrink at an alarming rate. The Bourbon Alliance and the Free the Spirit campaign has highlighted just how vital this trade is for the UK economy, across a number of sectors who desperately need support from the government in our time of need.

“Butting the tariff is a simple and efficient mechanism to provide this urgent relief.”

Last month, the EU suspended its proposed tariff increase on American whiskey, which would have seen the import tax double to 50%.

Meanwhile, the UK launched a six-week consultation on US tariffs, which could remove the 25% duty on American whiskey.

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