A Man Was Caught Selling $36K of Fake Pappy Van Winkle

Empty Pappy bottles were bought on eBay, resealed with a "foreign substance" and sold to UK buyers

Photos for a story about the popularity of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon, it's very expensive and quite hard to find photographed at Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C. on October 08, 2014.
Found a good deal on Pappy online? Be very careful.
Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Counterfeit bourbon continues to be an issue: a California man was just ordered to pay more than $36,000 in restitution after buying empty Pappy Van Winkle bottles online, filling them with bogus liquid and selling them overseas for a huge markup.

Per Louisville’s WDRB, Sandeep Minhas bought the empty bottles on eBay between May 2018 and February 2019, then refilled them with a “foreign substance” and sealed them. After that, he sold them to two auction houses in the United Kingdom, where he was paid a tidy five-figure sum for multiple shipments.

Unfortunately, Counterfeit Bourbon Is Becoming an Issue
Some bad actors are reselling fake and refilled bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, Col. E.H. Taylor and other rare American whiskeys

According to legal documents, the U.S. attorney will not “pursue any further criminal prosecution” if Minhas adheres to terms laid out in a pretrial diversion and pays restitution.

Pappy Van Winkle, now owned by Buffalo Trace, often sells for several times its MSRP and can fetch thousands at auctions and on the grey market (good luck actually finding it in a store). While some whisk(e)y packaging is easy to fake, some drinks experts believe consumer demand — and ignorance — plays a part in the increasing number of counterfeit whiskey scams.

“Part of the problem is the culture I see around bourbon, where it is about bragging rights and being able to Instagram a bottle you just bought,” Adam Herz, a whiskey collector in Los Angeles, told the New York Times last year. “Most people I see ending up with fakes are partly to blame themselves. Any good con man knows how to take advantage of someone’s greed.”

So if a bourbon deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. And until we can get robot noses or rapid authenticity tests in the hands of whiskey fans, it pays to be careful when buying rare bourbon. Other red flags include websites located in other countries and an offer of unusually low prices. Buffalo Trace itself has previously suggested reporting bad actors to the Better Business Bureau or the State Attorneys General’s office, while also contacting your credit card company about its fraud protection policies.


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