• 10.-12. October 2022
  • Exhibition Centre Berlin

30 August 2022, by Peter Eichhorn

Welcome back, Whiskey!

American whiskey has not had an easy time making its way to Europe in recent years. Finally, however, it is increasingly returning to us. Our author Peter Eichhorn gives it a warm welcome.

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“Them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye.” Sounds good? - Yes, this is what Don McLean and later Madonna thought. But: American whiskey has not had an easy time on its way to Europe in recent years. A trade dispute and punitive tariffs between Europe and the USA under Donald Trump put the brakes on a development aimed at finally making an unprecedented variety of American distillates made from rye and corn available to Europeans as well.

The demand and, hence, the exports from the US to Europe and especially to Germany increased steadily and finally the products of small and new distilleries as well as premium products of the big brands increasingly came to us. Let’s not forget: Bottle sizes, labels and product information had to be adapted to the European market. For many brands this was a big investment and therefore not an easy decision. But progress was made and the work, especially of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, finally paid off. 

Punishment is necessary? 

But then came June 2018. Donald Trump, who justified his punitive tariffs with “national security interests”, received the European response to his outlandish punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium products. This move even caused his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a headache. Then the Europeans retaliated with increased tariffs on jeans, motorbikes, peanut butter and whiskey.

The bills, previously so optimistically calculated, no longer added up with customs surcharges of 25% and the prospect of further increases. Whiskey exports plummeted and brands that had set out to conquer the European market halted their plans. Even the Republican Senate majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, did not dare contradict the President. Headlines in Kentucky newspapers read “Where are you, Sen. Mitch McConnell? Kentucky needs you.”

From Blues to Swing

It was not until the end of 2021 that the dispute was resolved under the new president Joe Biden - though not ended - but the tariffs were at least suspended. Gradually, the prices and availability of bourbon and Rye whiskey are returning to normal and we are looking forward to fresh whiskey sours, Horse’s Necks, Manhattans and Sazeracs. And, of course, Corn, Wheat and Tennessee Whiskey. Bring on the variety!

And we can sing again: “Well show me the way / To the next whiskey bar / Oh don’t ask why” – that’s how countless music and whiskey fans know the lines from the “Alabama Song” by the band The Doors from 1967. The original song dates back to 1927 and was penned by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. It was written for the opera “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny” and early recordings by Lotte Lenya have survived. It was a strange time in the USA then, too, in the middle of the era of Prohibition - the ban on alcohol in the country. Before that, even President Woodrow Wilson’s veto against this law had been of no use; a law that at that time, too, meant a deep cut in the distillery culture of the country. It was not until 1933 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt that the USA urgently needed a stiff drink and ended the Prohibition legislation on 5 December.

So let’s celebrate with Jim, Jack, Joe & Co.

Memories come to mind when, before the Trump era, the US Embassy in Berlin opened its doors to the Distilled Spirits Council and the products of the distillers and the sympathetic ambassador at the time, John B. Emerson, smilingly sipped whiskey and declared: “Of course, whiskey is available at the embassy otherwise. The guests of our house naturally expect THE American drink when they are entertained. And yes, we serve Coca-Cola too.”

And so we can finally look forward to seeing our American friends again at the Bar Convent Berlin in 2022. From the important Pouring products to the experimental spirits of the modern craft distilleries to the special rarities from the hidden corners of the warehouses from Kentucky & Co. The Distilled Spirits Council will also be on site again, together with representatives from around 20 distilleries and their products.

Sing to it? You can but it’s not a must.