Purchasing whisky in Norway, Part 4: From abroad

Getting whisky sent to Norway from abroad is a perilous matter. Shourtly put it’s illegal, except when sent as a gift. Although this is about to change, as long as the ESA (EFTA Surveillance Authority – the body set to see to it that the EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein) follow the rule of the EEA (European Economic Area) treaty – i.e. do what the EU says).

After the Rosengren-verdict in the EU courts last year Norway has been told to start allowing private import of alcoholic beverages outside of the government run Vinmonopolet. Private import through Vinmonopolet has been an available option for the last decade or so, but this excludes all auctions sites, producers that aren’t interested in selling single bottles to the edge of the world, club/comittee bottlings and all special bottlings from producers that are represented in Norway (where the local agent/importer doesn’t feel like importing if at all). So this new ruling will make it much easier for the Norwegian whisky enthusiast to legally get their hands on special bottlings. The rules for the new system is expected something next year, as the Norwegian government seems to want to drag it out as much as they can get away with.

As for today all private import has to go through Vinmonopolet, and will take months and cost an arm and a leg. Getting bottles sent as a gift is easier, but still costs a lot (though quite a lot less that private import as of today). Mostly the gift-option works quite well, although sometimes things get very frustrationg (read about a beer enthusiast’s effords here). I’ve personally, without problems, received gifts from the nice people at Ardbeg and Laphroaig the last coulke of years.

With gifts the problem is money and patience. When a bottle or two is sent to Norway by post it’s picked up by customs and a letter is sent by the postal service (Posten) to the recipient with information of the shipment and a form to be filled out. The filling out consist of signing your name, checking a box and sending it back to Posten (if you want Posten can do this for you for a mere 90 NOK/£9 – at least this was the rate last time I checked). You then wait and wait (can take a couple of weeks) until a note comes in your postbox and you can pop over to the local post office (or postal service counter at your local shop) and claim the package. This is where the money part comes in, since full taxes have to be paid. So let’s say a British friend sends me a £30-bottle of whisky (46% abv.) as thanks for staying on my couch last time he was in town. First of all the postal charges start up at 199 NOK (£19.50) before anything else is added. Alcohol tax is 5,89 NOK (58p) per %/litre, so a 46% bottle will be taxed at 189,66 NOK (£18.68). VAT is 25% and should on a gift be calculated only on the tax, so this will be 47,42 NOK (£4.67 NOK) – but if they calculate the original value and postage (as they might do, don’t even try to complain) the VAT will be 123,68 NOK (£12.17).

So best case is a charge of a mere 425,08 NOK (£42.85) for receiving a bottle of whisky as a gift. For a cask strength whisky another 100-150 NOK (£10-15) can be added to the total.

Until the new regulations are in place Norwegians need to travel abroad themselves to find special bottlings that aren’t available at Vinmonopolet. One litre can be brought along without paying any duty or tax. Another four litres can be brought along without much bother, but the must be declared. The tax/duty for these bottles are 260 NOK (£25.48) per litre, but beware the abv. as anything above 60% is illegal. If one want to bring more than a total of five litres, a special license but be applied for – detailed and applied for on before hand.

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7 Responses to “Purchasing whisky in Norway, Part 4: From abroad”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Any idea when this will be passed? I really want to start buying decent whisky again, not the (normally) crap stuff they have at Vinmonopolet.

  2. whiskyviking Says:

    A spokesperson for the Norwegian government stated in February that they needed about a year to get the new rules and regulations in place. A clear ploy to try and delay the inevitable. So somethime before easter next year, if we’re lucky.

  3. Kevin Says:

    Hopefully in time for the specials from Ardbeg and Laphraoig then (assuming they are out next summer as per usual) :)

  4. whiskyviking Says:

    If you’re thinking of the Feis Ile (Islay Festival)-bottlings they will be out in May as per normal.

  5. Kevin Says:

    I was thinking more like the Corryvrekken and the Cairdeas from Ardbeg and Laphroaig respectively, they are (relatively) cheap to buy :)

  6. whiskyviking Says:

    Corrywreckan was a committee-bottling, not necessarily a annual thing. Laphroaig Cairdeas was the Feis Ile-bottling from that distillery (but also available for Friends of Laphroaig on-line).

    Both distilleries will most likely (99,9% certain on this) come out with festival bottlings also next year (May).

    But even if they’re quite cheap on Islay, getting them to Norway will cost a pretty penny – as Norwegian taxes will be added on top of the British price.

  7. Kevin Says:

    Yeah, but Ardbeg do a committee bottling almost every year, and I was not aware of the Laphroaig being a Feis Ila, I thought it was FOL only, learn something new every day.
    As for the Norwegian tax, if we must pay that then we should not need to pay the UK tax, thus making the bottles only slightly more expensive than in the UK. Even if we need to pay both taxes, it is still cheaper than flying over twice! :D

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