Bourbon Caucus - 2023 Co-Chairs Andy Barr and Morgan McGarvey

The more things change, the more things stay the same. It was more than 200 years ago that Statesman Henry Clay arrived in Washington, D.C. It was Clay’s belief that despite their differences, Americans must be willing to talk to each other. To help kick start that conversation, Clay brought with him one of Kentucky’s most treasured items – a barrel of bourbon. It was Henry Clay that believed bourbon could “lubricate the wheels of government.” Be sure to catch Clay’s own Mint Julep cocktail recipe at the end of this article.

To kick off the 2023 legislative session U.S. Representatives Andy Barr (R-KY) and Morgan McGarvey (D-KY) renewed the Congressional Bourbon Caucus as an official Congressional Member Organization for the 118th Congress.

Barr and McGarvey Co-Chair the Bourbon Caucus

U.S. Representative Andy Barr (R-KY) and U.S. Representative Morgan McGarvey on CNBC with Ylan Mui discussing the Bourbon Caucus.

The Bourbon Caucus was founded in 2009 and is made up of a bipartisan group of members that are dedicated to strengthening the bourbon industry in the United States and educating other members on legislative and regulatory issues impacting the industry. Barr and McGarvey will serve as Co-Chairs of the caucus.

“I am proud to welcome my friend, Rep. Morgan McGarvey, to the Congressional Bourbon Caucus and look forward to working together to protect this signature Kentucky industry,” said Rep. Barr.

“In the last Congress, I was proud to lead the Aged Distilled Spirits Act which was included in the Craft Beverage Modernization Act. Now, the Bourbon Caucus will work to maintain zero-to-zero tariffs with the European Union (EU) to boost the industry in the years ahead.”

EU 50% Tariffs May Be Reimposed in 2024

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U.S. Representative Andy Barr (R-KY)
U.S. Representative Andy Barr.

The EU and United Kingdom imposed 25% tariffs on American whiskey in 2018, with the EU’s tariffs set to increase to 50% in June of 2021. Rep. Barr led a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai with over four dozen members of Congress encouraging the Administration to negotiate a suspension and elimination of the tariffs. While the tariffs were suspended, the EU is set to reimpose a tariff of 50% in 2024 if there is no agreement in the dispute.

“It’s an honor to join my colleague, Congressman Barr, as Co-Chair of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus,” said Rep. McGarvey. 

“Bourbon is a vital industry in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, providing countless jobs and stimulating our economy. I’m proud to be a leader for this bipartisan caucus and work across the aisle to protect and promote distilled spirits at a national and international level.”

“The Bourbon Caucus has been instrumental in the growth of distilleries across the country,” said Distilled Spirits Council of the United States – DISCUS President and CEO Chris Swonger.

U.S. Representative Morgan McGarvey (D-KY)
U.S. Representative Morgan McGarvey.

“Since the formation of the Caucus, the number of distilleries has grown from approximately 100 to more than 2,600 nationwide. From supporting historic legislation to reduce the tax burden on small distillers to urging the removal of debilitating tariffs on American Whiskey exports, Bourbon Caucus members have helped distillers grow and reinvest in their businesses and communities. Cheers to the Bourbon Caucus for the important work they do to supports jobs, tourism an economic development in the distilling, agriculture, and hospitality sectors.”

Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most treasured industries, a booming $9 billion economic and tourism engine that sustains more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1.23 billion each year and pays over $285 million in local and state taxes and $1.8 billion in federal alcohol taxes, more than any other state. 

A key export, distilling has the state’s highest job spin-off factor among top manufacturers; buys at least 17 million bushels of corn and other grains every year, mostly from Kentucky farm families; and is currently investing more than $5.2 billion in new stills, warehouses, bottling lines, tourism experiences and more. 

Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 475% since the turn of the century. 


Statesman Henry Clay’s Mint Julep Recipe


“The mint leaves, fresh and tender, should be pressed against a coin-silver goblet with the back of a silver spoon. Only bruise the leaves gently and then remove them from the goblet. Half fill with cracked ice. Mellow Bourbon, aged in oaken barrels, is poured from the jigger, and allowed to slide slowly through the cracked ice.

“In another receptacle, granulated sugar is slowly mixed into chilled limestone water to make a silvery mixture as smooth as some rare Egyptian oil, then poured on top of the ice. While beads of moisture gather on the burnished exterior of the silver goblet, garnish the brim of the goblet with the choicest sprigs of mint.”

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