Why Can’t I Get Liquor Shipped to My Home?

Rachel Hoffman
May 6, 2022

Have you ever wanted to order your favorite out-of-state liquor and get it shipped right to your front steps? The COVID-19 pandemic pushed consumers to rethink how they obtain the necessities and conveniences, but ordering distiller spirits for home delivery is not that easy, with only eight locales nationally permitting the direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping of spirits.

Spirits are in high demand

Prohibition era laws are still in place, severely restricting alcohol shipping, particularly for spirits and beer. However, wine has had great success with direct-to-consumer shipping, and the numbers show that spirits lovers want the same access. Distillers also desire parity in the beverage alcohol world. With over 15 years of compliant, tax-paying DtC wine shipping, producers and consumers have demonstrated that brands can be adored (and safely shipped) across state lines. The numbers also show that there is a strong desire from spirits consumers to have their favorite products sent to their front doors.

We are well past the Prohibition era, and there are new and fun ways to experience your favorite cocktail. There are over 2,300 distilleries in the U.S. according to The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). Whether a new startup or a buzzing pre-Prohibition operation, many are part of distillery trails, tourism initiatives that educate and delight consumers. Cocktail lovers can print a map and collect stickers for a prize while traversing the Colorado Spirits Trail. It’s recommended to visit the 18 distilleries that make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail over the course of four days, while the adventurous can prolong their stay to ten days and experience 41 tours during what has been dubbed “the ultimate Bourbon lovers’ quest”. No matter your preferred libation, there’s a distillery trail for you to discover.

Once a tour is over, consumers from far away are missing out on the chance to have a souvenir shipped home. And if their new favorite spirits aren’t available locally, they will need to make another trek to the distillery for a refill.

DISCUS found that eight out of 10 consumers think distillers should be allowed to directly ship their products to legal-age consumers in any state. Approximately three-quarters said they would consider purchasing spirits online shipped directly from distillers to them from outside or within their state. In fact, the most recent amendment to California Senate Bill 620 would give direct shipping privileges to California distillers who produce up to 150,000 gallons of spirits per fiscal year.

Make some noise

So there is consumer demand for DtC liquor shipping, but perhaps there’s nothing that can be done. Can consumers really make a difference? Absolutely. The DtC wine shipping market has grown because wineries and consumers were very active in advocating for it, bolstered by grassroots coalition Free the Grapes. Industry groups like state guilds and national organizations can help create collective action and build lobbying platforms. Involving consumers can also help speed up the often lengthy legislative process—because the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. Ship My Spirits is a grassroots coalition working to bring expanded DtC shipping to the distilled spirits industry by making it easy for spirits enthusiasts to write to their legislators straight from their website.

The old adage is true: there is strength in numbers. If you’ve ever tasted the perfect whiskey (or rum, gin, tequila or vodka) and wished you could send a bottle to your front door, now is the time to demand change. We’ll drink to that.

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Rachel Hoffman

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