Keeping Things in Place

One of the more common consumer requests I've received over the years has to do with our ability to order spirits from overseas. It usually comes from someone who has recently returned from vacation, tasted something delicious while traveling abroad, and now wants to recreate that experience here at home. They want me to track down whatever it was they had. It could be limoncello from Italy, or a special brandy from Spain, or a gin from New Zealand. More often than not, however, these spirits are not exported to the U.S. and are unavailable for us to purchase. I then have to explain to them the ins and outs of booze importation, and their eyes typically gloss over at that point from the boredom of that explanation.

"Can't you just order a bottle?" they ask.

No, unfortunately. We can't.

"Why is that?"

Well, first off: most countries use 700ml bottles for distilled spirits and we here in America use the 750ml size. That means that any distilled spirits entering the country for sale need to be rebottled in our official format. As you can probably imagine, there's no way a tiny distillery halfway around the world is going to create an entirely new package just so a few American tourists can order their nostalgic momentos once they return home. Second of all, it's illegal to ship spirits internationally unless you're sending the bottles to a licensed importer. That's what importers do. That's their whole job. If it was legal to ship spirits in the mail from overseas, there would be no need for licensed importation! Yes, I know, I've heard it a hundred times, so hold off that email you were getting ready to send me:

"But _________ ships whisky to the U.S. and they're located in ____________, so it must be legal!"

I know there are many retailers who are willing to ship from abroad, but I also tend to get this email from customers quite often:

"David - I ordered a shipment of whisky from ___________ and I just got a letter from U.S. customs saying I need a license to receive these bottles. Is that something K&L can help with?"

Unfortunately, it isn't. The U.S. customs office is a lot like the U.S. border: a lot of things can sneak through, but sometimes you get caught. It's up to you if you want to take that gamble. For me, however, I'm torn on the idea of complete access to the world at our fingertips. I kind of like the fact that I can only get certain things in certain places. If I can eat New York pizza anywhere, then why go to New York? If I could get Parisian pastries anywhere, why travel to Paris? If I could buy anything I wanted without ever having to leave my house, what special momento could I buy when actually on vacation? Sometimes I think I we should keep things in their place so that we help to maintain their value.

Sometimes I think we're making the world a less special place.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll