How to ship a bottle of whisky from Germany to Montana?
October 23, 2015 1:13 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to send a bottle of single malt from Germany to a friend in Montana as a gift. Has anyone done this before? What do I need to be aware of, in terms of customs, import tax / duties and federal and/or state alcohol laws?

Sadly, there are no US sellers carrying the brand, as it is a small local distillery here in Bavaria, otherwise I'd have chosen that route.

This states you can't send it through the USPS but a courier is ok. Does this include UPS? Information I found on forums is all over the place, from "no big deal, label it as a collectors item" to "it will probably be sent back".

Is there a way to pre-pay the duties & taxes? I'd like to avoid having my friend to pay for it on arrival, obviously. The bottle is 0.7 litres, 43%vol and worth around $55.
posted by starzero to Law & Government (7 answers total)
If it's valued under $100, there is never duty or tax payable, so your recipient won't owe anything, as long as you clearly mark a value of $100 or less on the paperwork when you ship.

Conversely, if it's valued over $100, your recipient won't owe anything... as long as you clearly mark a value of $100 or less on the paperwork.

(Expert authority: have received many alcoholic gifts suspiciously worth exactly $99 over the years.)
posted by rokusan at 1:21 PM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Upon crossing the border from Mexico back into Texas, I had to pay duty on a bottle of vodka and some beers (well under $100 in total value) and there were signs explaining that the State of Texas was collecting it and not the US government. Montana may want to collect some duty, so I would check around this website and contact them if it is still unclear. There are FAQs about rules for mailing wine into the state, but not other liquors so it is possible that it is not allowed.

The Feds also have this page that indicates that they can collect duty as well. The top of that page indicates that UPS may act as the Custom broker and collect the fees from you when you pay for delivery. After verifying that you can mail liquor into Montana, I'd talk to someone at UPS and ask what kind of brokerage they offer.
posted by soelo at 1:42 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm far from an expert on this stuff, but I ran into some trouble trying to ship one once. This site claims that it's "never legal for an individual to ship wine." Is that accurate? Does it only apply to wine? Does it differ for shipments originating outside the US? I don't know. But it's worth investigating/considering. US liquor laws are weird.
posted by primethyme at 2:09 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Will the distillery ship it for you?
posted by brujita at 2:45 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Fedex wants you to be a small business to ship alcohol, but UPS appears to have relaxed its rules a bit. Here's the UPS page from 2009 on that-- I hope this is up to date. Looks like UPS might be the way to go. Your bottle meets the generous requirements of UPS (below 5L, below 70%).
posted by Sunburnt at 3:22 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers everyone. It seems like UPS is the way to go, but: they want over 130 Euro for shipping, which is all kinds of ridiculous. I also checked the distillery website, they only ship to Germany.

I think this might just not be feasible so I'll probably end up bringing the stuff with me next time I travel to the US.
posted by starzero at 4:01 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Single-malt, you say. Mail two of them to me here in the USA. I'll happily pay any taxes or duty and re-mail a bottle to your friend wrapped any way you like. No charge!

Kidding. Maybe.
posted by rokusan at 5:58 PM on October 23, 2015

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