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Bourbon Shipping and Liquor Freight

March 12, 2024 Kevin Baxter


Bourbon shipping is a delicate process, as is any form of liquor freight movement due to the fragility of both the bottles and their contents. But producers in Kentucky's Bourbon Country and beyond must move their precious cargo across the U.S. - and around the world - to eager consumers in a reliable, cost-effective manor. In other words, a solution is needed to get American whiskey and other spirits from distilleries to bottlers (sometimes one in the same) to drinkers.

How Bourbon and Alcohol Shipping Works

Bourbon shipping involves care, whether it's using truckload, LTL or intermodal. While truck is the traditionally thought of method for moving alcohol, intermodal often presents a viable alternative. Either way, there are a number of factors to consider:

Packing - With bourbon and spirits traveling in glass bottles, the load must not only be well-packed from the factory, but it must also be properly blocked and braced, not only to prevent rattling and shifting, but also to address vibrations - something even liquor traveling via barrel needs to avoid too much of

Weight - Liquid, bottles, barrels and kegs are heavy, and that means to go along with proper packing techniques, they'll need to have pallets and crates that can handle what can sometimes be overweight loads

Speed - While bourbon, whiskey and other spirits spend time aging, once they're ready to ship, they typically need to get to their destination reasonably fast. The good news is, both over the road and intermodal solutions can make this happen in most scenarios

Temperature Control - Liquor does not require refrigeration like other food and beverage items, but it does need to avoid temperature (and humidity) extremes or risk expansion leading to shattered bottles, cork damage or just general spoilage. That often means turning to refrigerated trucks or containers (reefers) just to be on the safe side, but there are non-refrigerated options depending on speed, seasonality and route as long as conditions are closely monitored

Light Exposure - Bourbon and other alcoholic beverages can suffer major damage - as in chemical changes - when exposed to sunlight for any length of time, so it's imperative to not only ensure the packing process prevents this exposure, but also the shipping process avoids scenarios when crates are left out in the open

Insurance - Because shipping spirits is a trickier process - and loads are valuable - it's important to use freight partners who have the right insurance in case something does go wrong. As a shipper, you should have some, too

The Law - We're long past prohibition, but different states (and even counties) have their own regulations when it comes to alcohol, with regulations around crossing state lines, drifting too far from the interstate and of course, actual dry counties

So there are no shortage of variables to consider when it comes to liquor shipping. That means having a partner who knows how to account for and navigate each of them makes the whole process much easier. At InTek, we have experience moving FAK (freight of all kinds), including fragile beverages, both intermodally and via truck. In other words, we can help. Just drop us a line, and we'll be happy to follow up to discuss your company's unique shipping needs. For more information about InTek, or the logistics and supply chain space in general, check out our Freight Guides.

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