Why you can’t get that whiskey

Do you ever wonder why you can’t buy a spirit you liked overseas in the United States? There are many potential reasons, but a big one is a very simple regulation defining the volume of bottles legally permitted in the American market:

First off – the United States drinks its whiskey from 750ml bottles. The entire rest of the world (except for South Africa, I believe) does not. 700ml or 70cl is the global standard. The United States does not want its citizens to be confused between two different measurements, so they do not allow for 700ml bottles of booze to be sold domestically. That means that any liquor company that wants to sell its booze in the U.S. needs to put it in an entirely different bottle with a new label as well. All of their other booze can be shipped with ease to every other nation (except South Africa, I believe) around the world. Then a separate, special, time-consuming batch has to be made just for the Americans. That sounds annoying and it probably is annoying to many small companies in the whisky trade, so they say forget the Americans. It’s too much extra trouble.

That’s from David Driscoll of K&L Wine Merchants. David’s post goes into the many other obstacles that lay in the path from the distillery to your glass, including importation and distribution laws. Read the whole thing.

Kevin Erskine of The Scotch Blog inquired with the Tax and Trade Bureau as to why the US has this regulation. In short, it’s because the agency transitioned in the late 1970s to metric measurements and 750 ml was very close in volume to the then standard “fifth” (referring to a fifth of a gallon). Allowing 750 ml and 700 ml bottles was deemed too confusing for consumers, and so we’re stuck with an aberrant standard and less access to rare spirits. Attempts to get this rule changed have apparently not gained traction.

[Hat tip: @LushAngeles.]


4 thoughts on “Why you can’t get that whiskey”

Comments are closed.