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Return trip to Ireland-shipping alcoholic beverages back to US?

My wife and I are returning to Ireland next year after our first trip in 2001, ten days after the Trade Center attack. On the return flight home to the US we had two carry-on shopping bags (one from Beleek and the other from Waterford Crystal) in the cabin containing ten bottles of 'distillery reserve' and duty-free whiskies (oh, my!) with our carry-ons. I realize I won't be able to pull that off this trip!
After reading Rick Steves Ireland 2019 book and his comment in the 'Practicalities' chapter that, "You can mail one package per day to yourself worth up to $200 duty-free from Europe to the US (marked 'Personal purchases')".
Earlier in the same chapter, it was stated in 'Customs for American shoppers', "you can bring in one liter duty-free" (on your flight home).
I have no issue paying duty (on entry to either to Canada or The US) on anything I bring back in my luggage, but the scenario of 'shipping duty-free via Irish postage boxes' is not addressed.

I have shipped bottles of whiskey home from Florida in a "wineskin" sealed-bubblewrap enclosure (www.wineskin.net) within a 200#-strength cardboard box successfully in the past.
Has anyone shipped bottles of Irish whiskey back to the US using this or other procedure?
While in Ireland, we will be driving a rental vehicle across the Wild Atlantic Way and visiting a few distilleries in both the North and The Republic ((shopping only as I received my "Qualified Whiskey Taster" certificates at the Jameson Heritage Center, Bushmills Distillery, and the Olde Midleton Distillery on the original trip) and would prefer not to limit ourselves to one liter each plus duty-free purchases on the return flight).

FWIW, we will be flying from Shannon Airport to Toronto, Canada, and driving home to Michigan from the airport.
Any recommendations, suggestions, or previous experiences attempting this would be humbly appreciated!

Posted by
18117 posts

I have no experience shipping alcohol home from Europe, but I urge you to investigate the shipping cost before spending time on the legalities. Shipping costs from Europe are very high. Liquids are heavy. I would be very surprised if you saved money. Perhaps if you are buying extraordinarily expensive stuff, but will you save enough to justify the time spent?

I think you'll be able to find information on Irish Post's charges online. You'd have to add the cost of packing materials. If you opted to have the distillery ship for you or used a commercial shipper like FedEx, the cost could be much higher.

If the shipping cost looks affordable, you can follow up by delving into whether you'll be charged tax and/or customs duty.

Posted by
15 posts

In recent years, I have made the acquaintance of a lovely lady who is both a professional associate and an Irish whiskey afficionado. She has two older children who actively compete in Irish step-dancing competitions in the UK. The family travels to Ireland numerous times yearly for these competitions and when they find a whiskey "treasure" over there, they frequently bring back a bottle for me. Last year, it was a Jack Ryan 12 year old single malt Irish whiskey, which is just now in limited commercial availability in the US.
Understandably, I would not be purchasing any Jack Ryan in Ireland, but 'distillery reserves' from Olde Midleton or Bushmills Distilleries are 'horses of a totally-different color'!
It is my intent to purchase those bottles which are not imported out of the UK or possibly those which now are priced MUCH higher in the US, such as a rare Midleton, a 21-yr old Bushmills, or possibly a 1951 Knappogue Castle, if offered at duty-free prices at Shannon Airport, our departure point from our Fall 2020 trip.
Not knowing what is or will be stocked at the Shannon Duty Free when I visit is the issue: do I focus on the distillery gift shops and off-site liquor dealers or take my chances before I depart at the Shannon Duty Free? "Damned if you do and damned if you don't!"

Posted by
16817 posts

For liquids purchased outside the airport, I would simply pack the bottles as well as possible within your checked luggage. You may be charged duty for amounts over the limit of one liter per person, but customs agents often are too busy to bother with that paperwork.

Posted by
472 posts

My husband and I just brought back in our checked luggage 4 liters of non-US distributed whiskey from Ireland and Scotland. All the whiskeys were purchased at the distilleries. We declared it at Dublin pre-clearance. No duties were imposed. I can’t speak for Shannon, but I would not assume you will be able to get distillery-only or non-US distributed whiskey at the duty free shops. At Dublin it was only the “usual suspects”.

Since you are returning via Canada I think your bigger worry is US immigration at the land border if you bring the whiskey back in your luggage. At least in Washington they really grill you on how much you have.

Posted by
4979 posts

First, the $200 Duty Free/day shipping does not include alcohol, that is always handled separately and shipped alcohol will be handled differently, to more stringent scrutiny, than alcohol carried back.

I would opt for bringing back with you, even if you package and check a box, trunk, or other purchased container there. In a typical carry-on size bag, you should be able to fit six 750 ml to 1 liter bottles, packed well. I would pay attention to the bottle style/build, typically I am bringing back wine, it has a heavier bottle, more rugged, just make sure the bottles you get have some heft to them.

Declare any alcohol at Customs/Immigration. Yes the Federal limit is something like one or two liters before you have to pay duty, but there is actually no Federal limit on how much you can bring back, up to the point that a Customs official believes that it is not for your personal use. Duty is something like 10% of purchase cost, so be prepared to pay, but I, and everyone I have ever seen post or have talked to has never had to pay that I am aware of.

One slight wrinkle may be State laws, your state likely does have limits on bringing alcohol into the State, they are more likely enforced if you ship, but since you likely will go through immigration and customs in Shannon, I doubt any State laws will be enforced.