International Shipping of Vodka

A few years ago, I spent a few months in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was an interesting experience; I met an English ex-pat with whom I still correspond on Facebook from time to time, did a horrible job of actually learning any Russian (though my accent, apparently, is quite good), and had the joy of walking to school every day in -35C temperatures. I bummed around the Hermitage, I watched Stalinist demonstrators on Nevsky Prospekt, I discovered my love of opera.

Anyway, when I left, I asked my English ex-pat friend to recommend a vodka to bring home as a gift for a friend (and also for myself). He recommended Pyatizvyozdnaya, a vodka distilled locally in SPb. So I got a couple of bottles (for the princely sum of 7 USD :eek:) and brought them home. Promptly, this vodka earned legendary status. I don’t know if it really was that good… but we definitely all remember it as being that good. As smooth as water.

Now, I can’t really just make a quick jaunt over to the Russian Federation to pick up a case. But I do still have a friend there. I’ve thought about trying to get him to send me a case, or at least a few bottles, but I’m not quite sure what the legalities of this would be. And while yes, IAAL, international shipping of consumer quantities of distilled spirits is not my thing, and I honestly wouldn’t even know where to start. (Also, the firm would be annoyed if I used Lexis to look this up.) So… does anybody know whether this is even something you can do?

Your profile says you’re in Columbus, Ohio, so I’m guessing you want to import the vodka into the US.

You can import alcohol into the US for your personal use. The postal service won’t handle it, but you can find a private courier who will. However I suspect it will be expensive; a case of vodka is both delicate and heavy.

You’ll have to pay import duty and excise tax before you can take delivery; the courier company will no doubt process this, and no doubt charge a further fee for doing so.

Federally, there is no fixed limit to the amount you can import for personal use, but if the amount seems larger than is plausible for personal use the authorities may treat it as an import for commercial purposes, for which you would need a licence. I’m guessing one or even two cases is not going to attract this treatment.

There may be a limit under Ohio law on the amount of alcohol you can import into Ohio for personal use; you’d need to check that.

If the stuff costs $3.50/bottle retail in St. Petersburg, my guess is that the courier costs, duty, excise and customs clearance costs will vastl outweight this. This is probably not a cheap way to stock your cellar, but if the stuff is good enough it may be worth it to you.

Great info, thanks.

I’d ask DHL. Back when I did freight forwarding to the FSU, they were the best, and whatever courier you want to use will likely be able to tell you the duty, whether they can ship to Ohio, etc.

Sure I won’t use Pochta Rossii–I’d be lucky if I got half a bottle out of my case. I’ll shoot my friend a message and see if he’s willing to do this, and how to get funds to him and so on. Thanks again. :slight_smile:

It’s probably the honey they include in the distillation process that you like.