Vintage Absinthe Scam Ensnares Multiple Collectors

Whiskey isn't the only spirit with scams involved

Absinthe sign
Absinthe scams are very real.
Timon Studler/Unsplash

If 2018 was home to the Summer of Scam, 2021 seems on a pace to usher forth its boozier autumnal cousin. Not long ago, there were multiple reports of scammers working to rip off whiskey drinkers with enticing offers that seemed too good to be true. But it turns out that whiskey isn’t the only spirit that someone’s found a lucrative, albeit immoral and illegal, sideline in. A new report sheds light on a scam targeting a very niche group: vintage absinthe enthusiasts.

Writing at VinePair, Evan Rail documented the efforts of a man referred to only as Stephen — a guy with a solid hold in the industry who made a five- to six-figure amount selling something that professed to be vintage absinthe, but was more frequently modern absinthe in vintage bottles. Among the things Rail discovered when writing the article? It’s not hard to find empty vintage absinthe bottles for sale in France. If you can come up with an authentic-looking label, well, you might be in business.

Stephen’s scam was helped by the fact that vintage absinthe collectors tend not to open their bottles — meaning that a prospective buyer might not ever taste the non-vintage bottle they had paid thousands of dollars for.

Eventually, the forger did encounter someone well-versed in actual vintage absinthe — absinthe expert Scott McDonald — who quickly figured out what was going on and appears to have brought an end to the scam. But, as McDonald told Rail, there’s something especially pernicious about this scam. Some distillers seek to re-create old spirits recipes by looking into vintage stocks, and absinthe is no different. But if someone intrepid researcher based their revival of an old recipe on one of the fake vintage bottles, a piece of spirits history might be lost or obscured forever.


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