November 13, 2018
The story of the guy who dropped ten thousand dollars for a dram of vintage Scotch Whisky only to find out it was fake (see the article here) was not only a tale of employing extreme caution, but a reminder that charlatans are among us, prowling on our ignorance, desires, and propensity to trust. Gone are the days when con men are trying to sell the Eifel Tower and the Brooklin Bridge, today’s swindlers are more ingenious, focusing on trades that convincingly look legitimate and legal.
In the United States alone, the liquor and spirits trade hit a record US$26.2 billion last year, with sales from domestic and imported spirits increased to 4%. Such a lucrative industry is free real estate for scammers, who will stop at nothing to gain money at your pocket’s expense, or worse, your safety.
Do not get duped, here are nine ways to spot a fake whiskey. The enterprise of counterfeit liquor is real. DO your part and save yourself.
Your Source is Not Legit
Your first step in buying a bona fide whiskey (or buying bona fide everything) is getting it from a bona fide source. Stay away from the bloke down the pub. Make sure the broker, auction house, or retailer you are buying from has a good track record, an established reputation, and is never involved in any untoward transactions.
Is The Price Too Good To Be True?
Well, yes it is! Unlike raw denims and winter clothes at Costco, vintage whiskeys never go on sale, no matter what the shady guy from two blocks away tell you. Manufacturing bootleg booze has very low mark-ups, so peddlers have no problem selling them at low prices.
Not sure what’s the current selling price for a bottle? Check www.globalalcoholprices.com to give you an idea of comparisons.
Keep The Phone Handy
Photo: bruce mars/Pexels
We doubt you’ll ever step out of the house without your phone, but we’re still making the extra effort to remind you. Having instant access to the Internet will save from getting duped. Check legitimate online whiskey sellers for comparisons. Or best picks are The Whiskey Exchange, Love Scotch (if you are from the US), and Hard to Find Whisky (if you are from the UK). See how much a legit bottle costs and how the bottle and the contents supposed to look like. Anything slight deviation you find, get out of the deal.
The Devil Is In The Details
Genuine manufacturers put great effort on their products, down to the bottle labeling. Bootleggers? Not so much. Using a hand-held magnifying glass (which will only cost you around 17 bucks on Amazon), examine the label for any pixelation or vertical ridges, common among home-printed stickers. You will never find these details on authentic bottles.
Also, look for misspellings, inconsistencies, and grammar mistakes. The 1878 Macallan incident’s downfall is the glaring mistakes in its label. Con men don’t invest much effort into proofreading.
Zero In On The Dates
To provide a façade of authenticity, crooks will try to purchase empty real bottles of whiskeys from bars and then fill them with fake alcohol made from a shady basement somewhere. That or they just outright sell expired ones. Either way, the bottle expiration date is a giveaway. They are normally on the bottom of the bottle, near the neck, on the stickers, or the cap.
The Color Of The Liquor Tells A Lot
From a distance, a bogus drink may look indistinguishable from an authentic one. But a closer inspection will reveal the difference. Genuine whiskeys' colors are clear, rich, full-bodied, and consistent. Fake ones use artificial coloring so there might be inconsistencies such as the appearance of different shades or layers of varying colors. Get out on the sight of these. You are buying a whiskey, not a layered cocktail.
Lightly Spin The Cap
Photo: Aaina Sharma/Unsplash
The bottle caps should have a tight fit. If it is loose or spins on a very light effort, chances are the bottle has been tampered already. Also, the stickers, ribbons, seals, and holographic seals should look authentic, otherwise, it is a red flag already.
Take A Whiff
Photo: Alex Bargain/Pexels
Whiskeys should smell strong, like leather, fruits, wood, spice, or even earthy. Any hint of nail polish, acetone, varnish, turpentine, or just any chemicals that you are not supposed to ingest means the alcohol is faked and is probably dangerous for consumption.
Get Expert Advice
If there is a certain bottle you want to get your hands on but quite not sure of its authenticity, get help from someone who knows their way around whiskeys. This person might be an auctioneer, a specialist, or a collector.
Normally, expert advice can cost a bit of money but at least you will feel more secure with your investment. Additionally, purchasing a phony bottle because you trust yourself too much will burn a much deeper hole both on your pocket and on your morale.
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