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When returning to Canada from abroad, a Canadian resident or citizen is allowed to import alcoholic beverages according to the following rule:

Alcoholic beverages are products that exceed 0.5% alcohol by volume.

You are allowed to import only one of the following amounts of alcohol and alcoholic beverages free of duty and taxes as part of your personal exemption:

Product Metric Imperial *Estimates
Wine Up to 1.5 litres Up to 53 fluid ounces Two 750-ml bottles of wine
Alcoholic beverages Up to 1.14 litres Up to 40 fluid ounces One large standard bottle of liquor
Beer or ale Up to 8.5 litres Up to 287 fluid ounces Approximately 24, 355-ml cans or bottles of beer or ale

Source

This question comes in two parts:

  1. Into which category does mead fall?
  2. If the personal exemption limit is exceeded, what excise rate applies? Is it the one from the Customs Tariff Document?

mead-tariff

Source (page 345)

Assume the following:

  • The traveller is a Canadian citizen.
  • The mead was purchased in a CETA country and documentation is available to prove it.
  • The mead is no stronger than a typical wine (11-12% ABV).
  • The intent is for personal use and gifts, rather than for sale.
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  • I am not familiar with entering Canada with alcohol but in the countries I do know the rules they class the drink by alcohol 'strength' so you should be able to take as much as you can take wine.
    – Willeke
    Oct 22 at 14:00
  • 1
    That is a surprisengly small amount of duty free alcohol you can import. If you want one bottle for yourself and one as a gift you already have to tax it? That sounds so bureacratic compared to the amount of tax you would get
    – Hakaishin
    Oct 23 at 11:36
  • 1
    @Hakaishin Bringing a case of beer across provincial borders can land you into troubles in Canada. The laws and regulations on alcohol in most provinces except perhaps Quebec are puritan and archaic.
    – xngtng
    Oct 23 at 13:13
  • 1
    And while a few bottles of wine from Europe may be too much of a hassle, people getting cheaper beers on their weekend trip to the U.S. would have very significant effects on the taxes collected and the provincial monopolies.
    – xngtng
    Oct 23 at 13:17
  • Tangentially related, but the US thinks it is "honey wine" ttb.gov/faqs/alcohol#hw Oct 24 at 3:41
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The legal definition for wine under the Customs Act, which refers to the definition under the Excise Act, 2001, is:

wine means

  • (a) a beverage, containing more than 0.5% absolute ethyl alcohol by volume, that is produced without distillation, other than distillation to reduce the absolute ethyl alcohol content, by the alcoholic fermentation of

    • (i) an agricultural product other than grain,

      • (ii) a plant or plant product, other than grain, that is not an agricultural product, or

      • (iii) a product wholly or partially derived from an agricultural product or plant or plant product other than grain;

  • (b) sake; and

  • (c) a beverage described by paragraph (a) or (b) that is fortified not in excess of 22.9% absolute ethyl alcohol by volume.

which should cover most meads.

On the same topic, beer is defined by the Excised Act as

beer or malt liquor means any product (other than wine, as defined in section 2 of the Excise Act, 2001) that is

  • (a) a fermented liquor that is brewed in whole or in part from malt, grain or any saccharine matter without any process of distillation and that has an alcoholic strength not in excess of 11.9% absolute ethyl alcohol by volume, or
  • (b) beer concentrate (NB: defined separately);

All beverages exceeding 0.5% alcohol content are alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine.

You are allowed one and only one of the personal exemption amounts available for alcohol. If you want to bring back a mix of beer and wine, or you are bringing back any hard liquor/spirits, only the 1.14-litre exemption applies.

If the personal exemption limit is exceeded, what excise rate applies? Is it the one from the Customs Tariff Document?

Federal custom duties according to the Tariff, federal excise levies, GST as well as any provincial PST, HST, other taxes and excise levies and restrictions all apply. You may need to ask your provincial liquor control department for clarifications.

3
  • Bees are not plants, so honey is not a plant product (for example, it is not considered vegan). I'm not sure whether you could make some argument that it still meets (a)(iii) because the honey ultimately comes from nectar. Ask a lawyer?
    – Kevin
    Oct 23 at 5:51
  • 4
    @Kevin Honey from beekeeping is an agricultural product in itself qualifying under (i).
    – xngtng
    Oct 23 at 6:59
  • 2
    Here are the LCBO (Ontario) guidelines. Oct 23 at 9:47
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Mead is a fermented beverage, exactly like wine except that it contains honey instead of grapes or other sugary fruits. It uses the same types of yeast that is used in wine and alcohol percent cannot exceed 18% (wine yeast cannot function in more than 18% alcohol).

So the logical option would be wine. It cannot be beer or ale (alcohol is ~5%) and it cannot be alcoholic beverage (distilled with high alcohol content).

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  • That would be logical, but the quoted source says "Alcoholic beverages are products that exceed 0.5% alcohol by volume" so "Alcoholic beverages" in that context doesn't seem to refer to spirits. OTOH the limit for that isn't much less than for wine, so unless you're bringing 2x750ml or other booze as well you should be fine Oct 22 at 15:03
  • @ChrisH-UK "Alcoholic beverages" in the table is described as "One large standard bottle of liquor" and the allowance is less than for wine. Therefore I would assume this category is for distilled products – spirits. Oct 22 at 17:28
  • 1
    @WeatherVane it's the default for all alcoholic beverages, beer and wine included. Additional exemptions apply if you are importing wine only or beer only.
    – xngtng
    Oct 22 at 18:19
  • 6
    Never attempt to infer customs or other bureaucratic categories from logic. Oct 23 at 4:44
  • @WeatherVane the "one large bottle of spirits" is called an estimate, so isn't definitive, and that conflicts with the preceeding information. It's badly presented and unclear, but your assumption doesn't work Oct 23 at 11:23

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