It should be simple, right? You can get pretty much anything delivered to your home now. When it comes to your beloved whiskey, however, the subject gets tricky. Alcohol laws have long varied across the 50 states—and even among towns and cities—but some state governments and companies are fighting hard to have whiskey delivered to every home in every state.
Where the issue stands now
Right now, most states permit wine to be shipped directly from the seller to your home. But only 11 states, plus Washington, D.C., have the same allowance for spirits. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) is an industry trade group that is pushing for an even playing field. Chris Swonger, president of DISCUS says the related bills put forward in state legislatures over the past several years are encouraging. He also cited a DISCUS survey of more than 2,000 spirits drinkers showing that 80 percent believe direct shipping should be allowed. In a separate question, the survey found that 75 percent agree that wine and spirits should be subject to the same shipping laws.
With a heightened focus on changing antiquated alcohol shipping regulations, one bright spot emerged in Kentucky, where the passing of HB415 meant that for the first time, distilleries, breweries and wineries in Kentucky could sell their beloved spirits online. What does that mean for the average drinker? You can place orders within Kentucky, and other states that have similar laws, and have your favorite whiskey shipped directly to you.
“I am honored to be able to place the first order,” Kentucky State Representative Adam Koenig, who was one of the co-sponsors of HB415, said in a statement. “Hitting complete purchase symbolized so much more than buying a great bottle of bourbon. For Kentucky citizens, it means both convenience and expanded options to choose from. It is an extraordinary day for the men and women who work at our distilleries, wineries and breweries as well as Kentuckians who want a bourbon or glass of wine with dinner.” Koenig also hopes that with the number of huge distilleries in Kentucky this bill will inspire a number of other states to pass similar laws.
How this affects small distillers the most
The ability to ship to consumers directly is a lifeline for the small craft distillers, argues American Craft Association CEO Margie Lehrman. “Spirits should be treated equally to wine,” she adds. Washington state is one area where distilleries can deliver to in-state customers only directly from the distillery, which has helped some craft distilleries stay afloat. “People are ordering a bottle or two, but having this ability allows small distilleries without any retail presence to be known and to have people support their businesses,” says Nathan Kaiser, owner of 2Bar Spirits in Seattle.
How the industry is making progress
Multiple states, including California and New York, filed emergency orders during the pandemic giving distilleries a temporary ability to deliver spirits directly to their home state customers. If the legislation is allowed to remain permanent, distilleries are hoping it would set the tone for all other states to follow.
With the demand comes a need to replace confusing and tricky alcohol shipping laws that seem to be completely different depending on the state. How the product gets delivered is by and large up to the retailer. Some states allow them to use third parties for delivery and some states require deliveries be done by the retailer. RackHouse Whiskey Club is disrupting how whiskey fans can access their favorite spirit by partnering with independently owned craft distilleries and a network of distributors and retailers so they can try craft whiskey from around the country conveniently. RackHouse can currently ship to 39 states, but wouldn’t it be great if that was possible for everyone?
States are reporting progress. Whiskey makers and drinkers alike look forward to the day when whiskey can be shipped direct-to-consumer in every state. “If you have the ability to sell directly to consumers, suddenly you control your own destiny,” says Mark Meyer, co-owner of Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh. “It allows smaller distilleries to gain a foothold in the marketplace.”
Kaiser of 2Bar predicts a “long, hard slog” before whiskey fans in most states can easily—and legally—order that coveted bottle in the mail. Meyer agrees that it could take a while, but that “eventually, either through court decision or the marketplace, the spirits world will resemble the wine world.”
If you’re looking for a convenient service that ships unique types of craft whiskey straight to your door, check out RackHouse Whiskey Club. RackHouse scours the U.S. looking for the best craft distilleries with the most interesting stories to curate a unique subscription box filled with full-sized bottles of hard-to-find small batch whiskey. We’re building a community of premium craft whiskey drinkers. And you’re invited! Join us!