By Scott Wright

THE Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife has delayed the launch of its debut malt in the US following the introduction of tariffs on Scotch whisky exports last month.

Director William Wemyss, whose family opened the distillery in 2014, has been buoyed by the impact its inaugural whisky has made in international markets since its launch in January.

But the decision by the Trump administration to put a 25% tariff on single malt imports means consumers in the US, the world’s biggest whisky market by value, will have to wait to get their hands on the Lowland malt.

Kingsbarns has so far rolled Dream to Dram out to 20 markets across Asia and Europe, including the UK, where it now has more than 120 stockists. Stock initially earmarked for the US has been diverted to other key territories.

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On how the new malt has been received, Mr Wemyss said: “They’ve gone pretty well, apart from the States which we put on the back burner because of the introduction of these tariffs. The cases we have allocated are being taken into other markets, because we are doing better than we forecast in terms of our sales into other markets.”

The Trump tariff was a tit-for-tat response to the subsidies given by the European Union to Airbus. The Scotch Whisky Association said the barrier would undermine distillers’ competitiveness in a market which imported more than £1 billion of Scotch last year. It also warned the move would have a “negative impact on investment and job creation in Scotland.”

Mr Wemyss said: “It’s too early to say how it is affecting the wider industry. If you look at bourbon sales into Europe where there had been an import tariff for about a year prior to the 18th of October, those sales were down about 20 per cent. That sort of percentage decline is probably a realistic expectation.”

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He added: “Everyone in the Scotch industry would like to see the tariff removed. It was tariff free from 1994 till the 1st of October 2019. We are keen that Donald Trump remembers his ancestry of his mother from Lewis and removes single malt Scotch tariffs. He hasn’t responded to my tweet on that; perhaps he has other things on his mind at the moment.”

Elsewhere in the political sphere, Mr Wemyss said Brexit has not had a noticeable effect on trade, with weaker sterling since the 2016 referendum helping exports to an extent. But he stressed the need for certainty to be restored, noting that the continuing flux is “extremely unhelpful” when it comes to planning.

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Meanwhile, visitor numbers attracted to the Kingsbarns Distillery continue to grow. Mr Wemyss said numbers had increased from 8,700 in 2015 to 15,000 in 2018, and are on track to rise again this year. While Brexit uncertainty has been cited as figures from VisitScotland have revealed a big fall in visits from international tourists to Scotland in the first two quarters of the year, Mr Wemyss said Kingsbarns has so far seen no such effect. Its growth has been boosted by the appeal of the Darnley’s gin school, based at the same site, where consumers can make their own spirit.

The Kingsbarns Distillery celebrates its fifth anniversary this weekend with an event for its Founders’ Club. There are now nearly 1,300 members of the club, who are entitled to receive five exclusive releases over five years for a £500 subscription. Members will be given their second bottle, which was finished in a Portuguese wine cask, this weekend.