More Than a Third of Rare Whisky Might Be Fake, Says Awful Report

Radiocarbon dating the spirits produces troubling results

December 21, 2018 9:00 am

In another example of “this is why we can’t have nice things,” it turns out that more than a third of rare whisky for sale might be fake.

That’s the conclusion reached by spirits broker Rare Whisky 101, which partnered with geochemistry experts at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) to forensically test 55 random bottles of rare Scotch, obtained through retailers, private collections and auction houses.

Of those 55, a whopping 21 of the bottles were either outright fakes or not distilled in the year declared, including all bottles purported to be from on or before 1900.

If you extrapolate those numbers, RW101 estimates there is, after converting, about $52 million worth of fake whisky in the U.K.’s secondary market and within existing whisky collections — which is a problem, given that the entire U.K. auction market for whisky is estimated at just $45 million. Andy Simpson of Rare Whisky 101 did offer some consolation to collectors, noting that “the vast majority of rare whisky vendors aren’t knowingly selling fake whisky to unsuspecting buyers.”

That said, heed their advice: buyers should “request absolute proof of authenticity” and assume that any pre-1900 Scotch is fake unless proven otherwise. Besides sending your hooch to a lab, perhaps this is a time to bring in blockchain technology?

H/t Decanter


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.