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Trade Wars: Risky Business for Whiskey Business?

The bourbon industry supports more than 17,000 jobs in Kentucky. Will tariffs put it over a barrel? (Pixabay)
The bourbon industry supports more than 17,000 jobs in Kentucky. Will tariffs put it over a barrel? (Pixabay)
July 23, 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Whiskey trade groups from around the world will converge on the birthplace of bourbon this week to discuss their concerns about a possible global trade war being stoked by the Trump administration.

Tariffs have already been imposed on bourbon in some overseas markets and, according to Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association, they're affecting short-term sales.

Gregory warns there is real potential for long-term damage, and he says the whiskey industry needs to have a unified voice.

"You know, there are times when you kind of need to get the family together and talk about issues, and this is one of those times – to sit down and have an open discussion about what's going on, and what we can do to work together to promote and preserve free and fair trade," Gregory states.

Whiskey producers from Canada, Europe and Japan, as well as groups representing the Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky, will meet with the Kentucky Distillers Association this Wednesday and Thursday in Louisville. Gregory says it's a first-of-its-kind gathering for these organizations.

Bourbon is an $8.5 billion industry for Kentucky, supporting more than 17,000 jobs. Gregory is concerned recent industry growth will be stunted if a trade war escalates.

"We're also in the middle of an incredible $1.2 billion building boom with capital projects, everything from new distillers and bottling lines, all the way to new tourism centers, to really elevate our Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Show Craft Tour experiences," he relates.

Gregory says an estimated 95 percent of the world's supply of bourbon comes from Kentucky.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY