And this is how we know the EU is officially off its rocker — they’re considering a retaliatory bourbon tax.

Before we get too alarmist here, they’re also considering tariffs on dairy and orange juice, according to a report in the Financial Times:

Speaking on Friday at the summit in Hamburg, European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker declined to detail any possible EU retaliation but said Europe would respond to any US steel sanctions.

“Our mood is increasingly combative,” Mr Juncker said as he indicated Brussels would react to Washington not in months but “days”.

Mr Trump has promised for weeks to crack down on steel imports under a 1962 law that allows such measures on national security grounds.

Why bourbon? Because it happens to be one of Kentucky’s main exports and Kentucky is home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But it’s not just Sen. McConnell who would be squeezed, Kentucky’s bourbon industry employs about 17,500 people.

According to an NPR report, EU states account for about 60% of Kentucky bourbon exports:

A tariff on bourbon, a classic American spirit that is produced only in the U.S., isn’t just symbolic. American whiskey has experienced a serious boom in global popularity over the last few years.

The bourbon industry fought hard for that global expansion, says Fred Minnick, the author of Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey. For years other countries levied large tariffs on bourbon, he says, and the world thought “whiskey” meant “Scotch.”

“Bourbon distillers worked very diligently to peel away some of those ridiculous tariffs,” Minnick says, and successfully introduced American whiskeys to drinkers abroad.

Now, bourbon is increasingly popular worldwide. Roxanne Scott of member station WFPL in Louisville, Ky., notes that the EU is “a major bourbon customer.”

“Data from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States [DISCUS] shows that about 59 percent of the country’s bourbon exports went to EU member countries last year,” Scott writes.

Like France has the market on Champagne, the U.S. is the only country who produces authentic bourbon.

NPR also notes that due to the amount of time it takes to produce whiskey, any sudden shift could reek havoc on current production:

…a substantial tariff would be bad news for bourbon makers. Distilleries have to plan far in advance, because whiskies spend years aging in barrels. They can’t exactly pivot to respond to new trade policies.

“It’s kind of like trying to turn a big ship,” Carlton says. “You can’t make really quick changes overnight.”

What does all of this mean?

Polish your fine barware. If the EU chooses the path of tariffed bourbon, the responsibility of maintaining the domestic bourbon market falls on us. And far be it from me to let good bourbon go to waste.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.