LOUISVILLE, Ky. — American whiskey exports, battered by tariffs and the pandemic, started rebounding in 2021, but distillers have more ground to make up to fully recover, an industry group said.

Exports of bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey reached $975 million in 2021, up 15 percent from the prior year, according to a report issued by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Last year’s total was still down 18 percent from the record high — about $1.2 billion in 2018.

American whiskey distillers got caught up in a trans-Atlantic trade fight, causing deep drops in exports to the European Union — the industry’s biggest overseas market.

The EU imposed a retaliatory tariff on those spirits in mid-2018 in response to then-President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on European steel and aluminum.

A deal was reached in late 2021 to lift those tariffs on American spirits.

Tennessee is the nation’s leading spirits exporter, followed by Kentucky.


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