Remember That Time You Learned Your Nearly $125,000 Whisky Was Fake? - The Whiskey Wash

Remember That Time You Learned Your Nearly $125,000 Whisky Was Fake?

By Nino Marchetti / December 19, 2016

In the world of collectible whisky one thing high end buyers will tell you they fear more then about anything is discovering that super rare bottle of Scotch or bourbon they purchased is a fraud. Can you imagine the shock you would feel if you laid out $100,000 or more for an old bottling, only to discover it is just caramel colored water, much younger whisky something else? Rare Whisky 101, a whisky analyst firm out of the United Kingdom, unveiled just such an issue recently.

Rare Whisky 101

Testing the Laphroaig 1903 (image via Rare Whisky 101)

Rare 101 Whisky 101 said it purchased at an auction last year a “a trove of forged rare Scotch malt whisky” which included a bottle of Laphroaig 1903, potentially worth £100,000 (about $125,000 USD), and two fake part sets of Macallan Fine and Rare, one worth around £500,000 (about $624,375 USD) and the other worth around £250,000 (about $312,200 USD). It focused its forgery study on the Laphroaig 1903 over a six month period of forensic tests, said to include:

  • Glass dating to match the bottle with the methods used in early 1900s
  • Cork and capsule assessment
  • Organoleptic assessment of the liquid to prove quality and style fit the profile expected from a Laphroaig
  • Analysis of peat derived compounds to prove Islay signature and provenance of smoke
  • Analysis of malt and grain whisky derived compounds to prove single malt or blended scotch
  • Carbon dating at Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit to verify the year of distillation.

“The conclusion from Rare Whisky 101’s investigation,” said the company in a prepared statement, “is that the whisky is a modern fake. Results from Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit suggested a 75% chance that the liquid (a blended scotch) was created between 2007 and 2009, more than 100 years after its suggested label date!”

Given that the UK whisky auction market alone will trade around an estimated 55,000 bottles and turn over around £12,000,000 (about $15,000,000 USD)  in 2016, key to this growth is trust in the market. It is most definitely a buyer beware kind of experience, however, when there’s no easy way to authenticate the contents of a bottle without cracking the seal and significantly dropping its worth if it is real.