Editor’s Note: This guest post comes to us courtesy of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Across the country, Bourbon lovers will raise a dram this September in honor of “National Bourbon Heritage Month,” a month-long celebration of America’s native spirit.
American whiskey has held an important economic, cultural and social function in the United States, even predating the country itself. In fact, Founding Father George Washington ran the largest whiskey distillery in the early years of the nation at Mount Vernon.
Bourbon was officially recognized as a distinctive product of the United States in 1964 with an act of Congress. Under federal law, Bourbon must be made in the United States; consist of at least 51% corn; and be aged in new, charred oak containers.
In 2007, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution officially declaring September as “National Bourbon Heritage Month,” celebrating the uniquely American history of the spirit. Since then, Bourbon enthusiasts have come together to appreciate the craftsmanship, history, contributions and achievements made within the Bourbon industry.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) reports that consumer interest in the category has soared in recent years. In 2020, more than 28 million 9-liter cases of American Whiskey were sold in the United States, generating over $4.3 billion in revenue for distillers.
At a time when the domestic market for the category has experienced significant growth, the export market has been severely impacted by an unrelated trade dispute over steel and aluminum between the U.S. and the EU and UK. While progress has been made in other trade disputes impacting distilled spirits on both sides of the Atlantic, American Whiskeys, including Bourbon, now remain the only spirits category with tariffs still in place, putting America’s native spirit at a competitive disadvantage in the EU and UK.
“Since the imposition of retaliatory tariffs in 2018, American Whiskey exports to the UK have decreased by 52 percent and to the EU by 32 percent,” said Chris Swonger, President and CEO of DISCUS. “We are hopeful this tariff issue will be resolved by the end of the year, so that adult consumers in two of our largest export markets can continue to enjoy one of our country’s greatest exports. Especially during Bourbon Heritage Month, we need toasts – not tariffs!”
Swonger added that Bourbon Heritage Month may look different this year with ongoing pandemic restrictions but noted there are ways to still ways to celebrate by supporting bars restaurants and local distillers safely and responsibly.