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Domestic Whiskey Transportation: What you Need to Know

Resources > Domestic Whiskey Transportation: What you Need to Know
The demand for whiskey is rising across the country. This creates opportunity for domestic whiskey transportation.
Published: June 9, 2020
Last Modified: August 28, 2023
Author: Ask Truckload

This popular alcoholic beverage has been distilled and properly stored in oak barrels. Now it is time for you to pivot from producing the liquor to thinking about domestic whiskey transportation to turn the grain-based spirits into money. 

The American whiskey market is expected to grow to $16.8 billion by 2025, meaning there is a lot of room for domestic whiskey transportation. While there are several large aspects to consider before placing your product on a truck and sending it out, there is little stopping you from taking advantage of this rising demand.

When you finally do consider it, think about partnering with R+L Global Logistics. We can help with all of your shipping needs, whether it be the whiskey itself or even delivering the ingredients themselves to you so you can make it. 

Where is Whiskey Produced Around the U.S.?

Where is Whiskey Produced Around the U.S.

Since the Revolutionary War in the 1700s, whiskey moved to the forefront of American alcohol consumption because its main ingredient — corn — was plentiful in comparison to crops needed to make other types of popular liquors at the time.

However whiskeys can be made with any number of grains and differ either subtly or greatly depending on the ingredients, method used to distill and how long the spirit is aged. With an ingrained history in the United States, there is at least one distillery in each of the 50 states, some that are quite good despite not being produced in “traditional” whiskey hotbeds. 

The most well-known whiskeys, however, come from Kentucky and Tennessee. Kentucky boasts Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve, among others, while Tennessee is the home of Jack Daniel’s, the most famous and best-selling whiskey in the U.S. While produced in lesser quantities than Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel is Tennessee’s second-largest producer of whiskey

Although whiskey is the popular catch-all term to describe the liquor, there are actually many different distinctions when it comes to the beverage in the United States:

  • Bourbon whiskey
  • Tennessee whiskey
  • Rye whiskey
  • Rye malt whiskey
  • Corn whiskey
  • Malt whiskey
  • Wheat whiskey

Those are a few recognized in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Of the ones listed, Tennessee Whiskey has to be made in the Volunteer State or it is not allowed to receive that designation. The whiskey also must be made from a minimum of 51 percent corn, be aged in charred new oak barrels and have undergone the “Lincoln County process”, which means it is filtered through multiple layers of charcoal before barreling. 

Other whiskey categories blended whiskey, spirit whiskey and light whiskey. Even single malt versus blended is important for experienced whiskey drinkers to know when purchasing. Also, whiskey and whisky are both considered acceptable terms to refer to the caramel-colored beverage and are used interchangeably in America. Having said that, most U.S. distillers spell it whiskey.   

Can Alcohol be Transported Across State Lines?

For commercial purposes, the short answer of if alcohol can be transported across state lines is yes. However, it is not quite as simple as loading the boxes onto a truck and having them hauled from (for instance) Tennessee to California.

The state that the alcohol is being shipped to has to be allowed to legally accept such a delivery while the party shipping the alcohol must be licensed to sell beer, wine or liquor in the states.

For personal purposes, the laws are more strict. There are 15 states that don’t allow alcohol to be delivered or shipped directly to residents. Those states are:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

For commercial use, though, there aren’t many rules in place to prevent alcohol from being shipped across state lines as long as the shipper and receiver are both properly licensed. R+L Global Logistics can ship to all 50 states and Puerto Rico, so you’ll never be left wondering if your whiskey will be able to get to a certain state. 

There are a lot of rules to follow when shipping alcohol in bulk quantities. Learn more from an expert freight partner.

State Regulations on Transporting Alcohol

Each state (and counties within the states) has its own unique laws governing alcohol. Somewhat ironically, Kentucky and Tennessee-made whiskeys can’t reach every single county in their own states because some are dry. In fact, Moore County where Jack Daniel’s is made is a dry county.

Even more confusing, in the case of Kentucky, are wet cities located in dry counties. The whole point of these examples is for the business producing the alcohol to be aware of where it can and cannot legally have their alcohol distributed to.

With that out of the way, alcohol can be transported across state lines as long as the business and the transportation company are properly permitted and comply with the prevailing laws wherever they are. Still, in this facet of commerce, a business or 3PL company will not be able to plead ignorance if they are found violating a state or federal law. 

It’s of the utmost importance that you become at least somewhat familiar with the various laws and of even greater importance that the 3PL you use knows all of them. A good 3PL should be able to advise you properly if you’re asking them to do something that is not allowed by law.

R+L Global Logistics can handle all of this for you and more. We’re a trusted transporter with years of helping customers just like yourself reach their business goals.

How does TTB Regulate Alcohol?

How does TTB Regulate Alcohol

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is responsible for regulating all kinds of alcohol and tobacco, which includes distilled spirits. Whiskey falls under that category and the TTB’s mission is to make sure only people who are qualified are in the alcoholic drinks industry. 

The TTB also enforces the Federal Alcohol Administration (FAA) Act and makes sure that businesses apply and then receive clearance to engage in the manufacturing and distribution of drinking alcohol.

Some of the more prominent areas the TTB regulates are:

  • Permits
  • Taxes and filing
  • Home distilling
  • Importing and Exporting
  • Laws governing distilled spirits
  • Labeling (which will be discussed later in this article)
  • Approval of your beverage’s formula before label submission

The TTB also makes sure that the FAA Act is complied with at all times in its various areas. For instance, the government body will periodically sample alcohol to ensure that it is what the label describes it to be. The TTB also makes sure that alcohol is of a desired purity level so that it doesn’t make consumers unduly sick.

The TTB is really a catch-all agency in terms of monitoring the American alcohol industry as they also take customer complaints and investigate them. The group also looks over advertisements to ensure they aren’t intentionally misleading consumers.

How does ATF Regulate Alcohol?

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) exists to keep criminal enterprises or elements out of the manufacturing, distribution and sale of alcohol — among other things. 

That is the general goal of the ATF but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the one area where it would most affect a domestic whiskey distributor: trying to sell the liquor domestically or abroad while avoiding paying taxes or not having a valid license to do so. This would be considered trafficking and getting caught doing something of this nature would result in felony charges and time in a federal prison.

Hopefully, an even lesser concern would be using your whiskey business to launder money from illegal activities. 

These should not be causes for concern for a business who does things by the books. However, it is worth mentioning briefly here so that the consequences are well-known to anyone in the alcohol industry.  

Labeling Requirements for Whiskey

Labeling Requirements for Whiskey

The FAA Act, which was originally enacted in 1935, also covers labeling. Part of the Act’s intent was to make sure that labels accurately reflected what was inside the bottle. The TTB takes this extremely seriously, and can fine or shut down a business if it’s been found in a big enough violation.

Section 105 of the FAA Act (which is known as 27 U.S.C. 205) states several different things in regard to the label:

  • It is prohibited to engage in customer deception through labeling.
  • Certain information must be included on the label, such as the net contents, quantity, alcohol volume, and the manufacturer, bottler and importer.
  • If neutral spirits are involved.
  • The label must be free of obscene, misleading or otherwise false statements. The label can also not disparage another company or product.
  • A health warning label for all alcohol must be posted outlining the risks of birth defects to pregnant women, the impairment to operate a motor vehicle or other machinery, and other potential health problems that could result from alcohol consumption.

Those rules are for the manufacturer. Even the retailers are required to not tamper with the label whatsoever. This includes altering, mutilating, destroying or removing it.

How to Protect Glass Bottles of Whiskey during Shipping

When shipping glass liquor bottles, there are a few precautions that should be taken. While the whiskey will be encased in thick glass, it is still glass so it will be prone to breaking.

The first is that the box used should be as sturdy as possible, both to bear the weight of the multiples of bottles inside the box and to give it as much protection as you can. Corrugated cardboard boxes work great in this regard. 

Furthermore, dividers are strongly encouraged to prevent the bottles inside the box from coming into contact with one another. This will vastly cut down on the bottles knocking into one another and shattering.

It’s inevitable that the boxes will be stacked on top of one another. The best way to do this would be on a tightly-packed pallet that is then shrink wrapped to prevent the boxes from moving or somehow falling over.

Obviously, the last component is having a reliable 3PL company who partners with excellent, careful drivers. While unforeseen occurrences can happen from time to time, R+L Global Logistics prides itself on being extremely protective of your valuable freight. The last thing we want is any loss of property or a time delay in your whiskey getting exactly where it needs to be. 

Shipping Insurance for Transporting Whiskey

Shipping Insurance for Transporting Whiskey

Whiskey is not a cheap beverage by any means. Even on the less expensive end of the spectrum, a 750ml bottle (25.36 ounces) of decent whiskey will be worth $15 to $20 at the retail level, with higher-quality liquor going for much more in many cases.

With collectors now insuring their private collections — which could be worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars — it would likewise be an intelligent idea to insure a truckload full of your own valuable spirits.

Throw 100 boxes on a truck with 12 bottles in each box and you’re talking about the worth of a new car at the bare minimum with those large quantities of whiskey. So it behooves a distributor to seriously consider purchasing shipping insurance to protect the investment.

A reputable third-party logistics (3PL) company will offer supplementary shipping insurance, but you’re also able to secure your own insurance through a company other than the one providing transportation for your whiskey.

The 3PL company will provide carrier’s liability insurance but that will only cover the cost of what the carrier is deemed to be responsible for. Freight insurance, however, will cover nearly all loss, regardless of who is determined to be at fault. This can include loss due to a natural disaster.

Freight insurance ensures that when a load is being moved from one place to another, that your whiskey will be covered, against damage and potential theft. The reason businesses purchase freight insurance is to give themselves peace of mind.

Finding Transportation for Alcohol

Now that you know more about the different aspects of what to think about before shipping your whiskey, it’s time to talk about the actual shipping. First off, some companies may charge extra to transport alcohol since they might have to plan an alternate route to account for dry counties along the way.

The transporter should absolutely be an expert on the various alcohol laws governing all of the parts of the United States you’re shipping to or — at the very least — the laws along the route you will be shipping.

Preferably, the 3PL you hire should have vast experience in hauling large quantities of alcohol, whiskey and otherwise. Depending on your overall business needs, it could also be helpful if the 3PL in question offered warehousing solutions in case you wanted to get the products out of your facilities and closer to its ultimate destination.

Speaking of retailers, you can’t sell your products if you are always unsure of when it will end up in stores. In that vein, it’s important to partner with a provider that takes getting your freight load to its end point seriously. Being able to trust the 3PL company that handles the product of your time and resources can’t be overstated.

On the subject of resources, you should deal only with financially stable operations that have the clout to handle your needs. Also, a 3PL who has trucks available when you need them is paramount to achieving your goals and is another sign that the company has its customers’ interests in mind.  

Truckload Shipping with R+L Global Logistics

Once you’re ready to engage in domestic whiskey transportation, get in contact with the experts at R+L Global Logistics to help get those bottles to stores. R+L Global Logistics has decades of experience transporting alcohol and can get your liquor exactly where it needs to go quickly.

R+L Global Logistics can offer the special value proposition of keeping your freight safe and also getting it there on-time nearly every time. We boast a 99.5 percent on-time arrival rate and off industry-leading customer service to assist you during the process.

Besides being on time, included in every transportation is real-time freight visibility, so you can know where your load is at every step of its journey. If you need your whiskey warehoused until it is ready to be shipped to retailers, we can do that too since we have warehouses strategically located around the United States.

For times when you have to have your shipment completed a little faster, R+L Global Logistics offers expedited shipping, which carries an additional cost but could get your freight to its destination a day or two earlier than normal. R+L Global Logistics is also very competitively priced to make sure you’re getting great overall value for your money.

So when you’re prepared to begin the undertaking of domestic whiskey transportation, let us handle your needs. For a free, no-strings-attached quote, contact R+L Global Logistics through its website or call 866.353.7178 today.

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