What Expats Should Know about Importing Alcohol to The Cayman Islands

by Anne Evans

I introduced you to the pleasures and costs of alcohol available for purchase in The Cayman islands in a prior blog (“Wine Beer & Spirits: What Expats & Visitors Will Find in The Cayman Islands”). However, what if, like my husband and I, you are “collectors” and wish to import your treasures as you immigrate to life as a Cayman resident? Can one import personal liquor? If so, what are the requirements?

About Our Collection

As wine enthusiasts in the US, we had accumulated memberships in a number of wine clubs over the years. Unfortunately, it became clear early on in our expatriation adventure that none of these clubs would be able to ship our quarterly wine allotments to us in The Cayman Islands, so one-by-one we cancelled our memberships (Alas, farewell dear Schramsberg!).

Still, we had accumulated a fair number of bottles (#96, to be exact), ranging in value from US$50 to US$300. We decided to take them with us as we suspected that these vintages simply would not be available on The Cayman Islands (we were correct) – however, not yet fully understanding what importation would entail.

The Transition

Step 1 – Across County & Into Storage

The first step was to have the collection moved from our wine refrigerator in our St George, Utah home to a wine storage facility in Sarasota Florida where it would stay until we were ready to have it shipped to Grand Cayman. A refrigerated truck dedicated to transporting wine arrived on May 6, 2021; the bottles were packed into 8 insulated cases, and we waved good bye. The cost for transport across country was $885. The cost for storage in a dedicated wine storage facility in Sarasota, Florida for 18 months was $843.

Step 2 – Now We’re on Grand Cayman & the Wine is Not

It wasn’t until after we moved into our new home on Grand Cayman on May 5, 2022 and subsequently obtained our residency certificates that we were ready to tackle moving the wine from Florida to The Cayman Islands. By then, it was December 2022. We had found a truly reliable international shipper that we could trust to transport the wine from their US facility in Coral Springs, Florida to the port in George Town. Our shipper could air freight it or transport by ship. The former would have been optimal given the temperature sensitive nature of wine; however, the latter was far more affordable, and thus our choice. The cost to truck the wine from its storage location in Sarasota to the international shipper in Coral Springs, Florida was $500. The cost to ship it to George Town, Grand Cayman was $915.

BTW . . . there is one very critical requirement pertaining to the import of wine into The Cayman Islands which were not aware of until we were residing on the Island: the Importer MUST hold a Cayman Liquor License, which of course we did not! We were fortunate that our international shipper had a client with an active liquor license, and he gave permission to use his license to import our wine so long as we absolutely swore that the wine was solely for personal consumption.

Step 3 – The Grand Finale Expense

Come December 2022 (18+ months after leaving Utah), our wine had arrived in port – after paying fees for cross country transport, storage, trucking across Florida & shipping to Grand Cayman. However, we still hadn’t crossed the finish line. We still had to pay Cayman Islands Customs & Boarder Control tariffs on the wine and champagne. In accordance with the “The Customs Tariff Law (2017 revision)” Customs-Tariff-Law-2017-Revision.pdf (gov.ky), we would owe:

  • Champagne taxed at KY$10.80/LI = US$13.50/LI = US$10.13/750ml bottle x 12 bottles = $123.60.
  • Table wine taxed at KY$3.60/LI = US$4.50/LI = US$3.38/750ml bottle x 84 bottles = $283.92.

Step 4 – The Reward

We paid up and . . . Eureka! On the eve of the 2023 New Year, we opened a bottle of our long sequestered Schramsberg Champagne. And to-date, every bottle of the shipment that we have opened has been flawless.

If ai cannot solve a problem by baking a cookie, I cannot deal with it

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