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Bringing Whiskies back from the UK to the US

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Bringing Whiskies back from the UK to the US

Postby jeffk » Sun Jan 08, 2006 10:39 pm

I'm going to London in March and plan to hit up the local whisky shops in hopes of finding some goodies that aren't available here in the US. I'm thinking that I'll probably come home with 5-10 bottles, more or less...

What's the best way to bring them? Do you guys bring an extra suitcase and pack them in that? Do you carry them with you in carry-on luggage? Any thoughts? I'm not trying to avoid customs, just trying to make the carrying of the spirits easiest and safest.

Thanks...
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Postby MGillespie » Mon Jan 09, 2006 2:36 am

I would strongly recommend against packing them in a suitcase, unless you like the idea of picking broken glass out of your whisky-soaked clothes. I tried that with a few bottles of beer coming home from Germany a couple of years ago, and the smell has just now faded out of the suitcase.

Make sure you pack one bag less than your baggage allowance gives you...get a box at one of the retailers (or better yet, a plastic cooler that you can seal with duct tape), pack your bottles securely in that and check it with the rest of your bags. That way, you can use your carry-on allowance for anything you buy at duty-free...

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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jan 09, 2006 5:03 am

I've packed many bottles in with my dirty laundry, and never lost a one. Just wrap each bottle fully with clothing and pad well all around the outside. Tubes help, of course. I put them in at an angle I think is most likely to keep them somewhat upright, but you know it's going to be upside-down somewhere along the way. It's not for long. And unlike beer, whisky doesn't fizz when shaken.

Have all your receipts in hand, know where all your stuff is, and be forthright on your customs declaration form. Theoretically, anything over a litre will be charged duty at 3%, but I've never been charged. (Watch your dollar limits, too.) They ask a few questions to satisfy themselves that it's for your personal consumption (as opposed to resale), and wave me through. The one thing that won't fly is if they think you're trying to put one over on them. Then they'll likely look for bottles in the most unlikely places.
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Re: Bringing Whiskies back from the UK to the US

Postby WestVanDave » Mon Jan 09, 2006 7:25 am

jeffk wrote:What's the best way to bring them? Do you guys bring an extra suitcase and pack them in that? Do you carry them with you in carry-on luggage? Any thoughts? I'm not trying to avoid customs, just trying to make the carrying of the spirits easiest and safest.



Hi Jeff - not that I've ever travelled with Whisky on the plane in my hundreds of trips back and forth from Alberta :wink: - but I have heard tales about people who do so all the time...

"They" find that carry-on works very well... allowing for a bottle weight of 3 lbs. each - and a lightweight gym bag - 6 ~ 7 bottles seems to fit the carry-on restrictions. Tubes or strong boxes do their job - and sometimes the odd piece of foam or cardboard or clothing helps too... (or so I'm told).

As for customs - Mr. T's advice is spot on - and he seems to have a wealth of experience in that department.

I've had some "friends" who have simply shown their receipts and been very straightforward in their details of having bought a few more than the standard limit... and for everyone's benefit that have been waved through by customs... :D

Another friend did a fair amount of pre-scouting for those harder-to-find-in-North America bottles... and pre-ordered a number of gems to save the hassle of running around. Here were the few recommended shops in London:

    In Soho: "Vintage House" in Old Compton Street.

    Covent Garden has a "Cadenheads" (Springbank's independent bottling company's shop).

    Near the British Museum: "Royal Mile Whiskies".


I've also heard great praise and recommendations for Loch Fyne Whiskies - as you can order ahead and Richard will make arrangements to have it waiting for you at your hotel... rumour has it...
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jan 09, 2006 3:11 pm

I usually hit Loch Fyne late in my trip, and already have more bottles than I should, and of course I always find something there I have to have. So I have them ship it home. No troubles so far, and if the bottle is in the £100 range, shipping cost is offset by the VAT deduction.
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Postby WhiskyHill » Fri Jan 13, 2006 3:11 am

In my experience, the airlines up to this point haven't enforced the 5 liter rule on flights originating from europe. I would suggest avoiding having to take a connecting flight from your port of entry in the US to your home town. TSA (and airlines) have been enforcing it on domestic flights so then you are limited to 7 x 70cl bottles. You can try putting 5 liters in your checked bag and then 5 liters in your carry on (I did this on the last trip).

I've never had a problem with breakage on checked bottles. Just take plenty of tape and bubble wrap with you, and you can also roll some bottles up in clothing.

On my next trip I'll likely drive to Newark and get the direct flight to Glasgow on Continental. That way I can bring in all the bottles that I care to (in the past I've lugged home 30 bottles or so on each trip). It's about a 7 hour drive from my home.

Some off license shops will ship to the USA (Loch Fyne, Royal Mile) so take advantage of that if you can. I've had quite a few parcels come in from them and have never lost a bottle (except one to breakage which was promptly replaced).

Have fun and good luck with your malt logistics!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Jan 13, 2006 4:54 am

Thirty bottles! And I'm always nervous with eight or nine. You must pay duty--even if they were inclined to overlook that much whisky, you are certainly well over your dollar limits, unless it's thirty bottles of Teacher's.
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Postby WhiskyHill » Fri Jan 13, 2006 2:43 pm

Duty and excise are at the discretion of the Customs Officer on duty. Figure about $6 or $7 per bottle (about $2 of that is the excise on the alcoholic content). I have been flagged multiple times and for about 30 bottles (average value around $100) the assessment is always around $180. That's about what you get back on the VAT refunds. Considering that I always go for bottlings that aren't available in the US, it's a small price to pay. I've also been waived thru a couple of times.
ALWAYS declare your whisky. If you don't they can confiscate it.
Also, if you bring back a huge number of bottles, they might want you to produce a BATFE import license. 30 bottles once a year can be explained away for personal consumption.
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Postby jeffk » Fri Mar 03, 2006 10:29 pm

Can you tell me a bit more about the VAT deduction?

Does that mean that money I pay for VAT at a normal store in London (not duty-free) can be returned to me when I get back stateside?
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Postby Sherried Malt » Sat Mar 04, 2006 3:48 pm

Jeffk, you don't even need to wait until you return home. There's a procedure in place at Heathrow where you can get the money refunded while you're there. This avoids the potential long wait to get your money back...

It works like this. When you make your purchases, be sure to ask the merchant for the VAT refund forms. They'll fill it in with info about your purchase and their shop. Collect all your refund forms and be prepared present them at the airport. There's a station by the security check-in point where some official will review and stamp your documents, and after you go thru security, there's a central kiosk by the boarding area where the refunds are given. That's it.

If it's a large refund, they may not have enough money at the kiosk, but I've had retailers call ahead and verify that funds were available. Especially helpful if you're making large purchases on the day of your departure...

My only other suggestion is to leave A LOT of time for this. I underestimated the time it would take to get thru security, so I had to skip getting a refund last time. I was on line to get the refund when the boarding people basically told me I had a choice: Either get a refund or get on the plane but not both. :shock: :(

Good luck with your haul! :D
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Postby jeffk » Sat Mar 04, 2006 5:32 pm

SM, thanks for the info!
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