Close Menu

RW101 unearths fake Scotch worth US$1m

Rare whisky index, valuation and brokerage firm Rare Whisky 101 (RW101) has discovered a counterfeit haul of rare Scotch malt whisky, including a fake bottle of Laphroaig 1903.

The bottle was believed to be the oldest Laphroaig in existence

Purchased at auction by Rare Whisky 101 in 2015, the bottle of Laphroaig 1903 – believed to be the oldest Laphroaig in existence – was subjected to a six month long series of forensic tests.

The experiment also uncovered two fake part sets of Macallan Fine and Rare; one worth approximately £500,000 (US$633,000) and the other worth in the region of £250,000  (US$316,000).

Glass dating, cork and capsule assessment, organoleptic assessment of the liquid, analysis of peat derived compounds, analysis of malt and grain whisky derived compounds, and carbon dating at Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit were employed to determine the legitimacy of the liquid.

Results from Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit suggested a 75% chance that Laphroiag bottling – a blended Scotch – was created between 2007 and 2009, more than 100 years after its label date.

RW101 is now airing “concerns” over the authenticity of rare old whisky on sale throughout the worldwide auction market, and says the findings mark “the first significant indication” that fraud is more commonplace than previously considered.

RW101 co-founder Andy Simpson said: “This experiment was a first for us, a chance to try and prove the provenance of a bottle of single malt Scotch which purported to be amongst the oldest surviving bottles in the world.

“We had our suspicions from the start, but the forensic testing has enabled us to examine each and every component. Despite a very convincing aesthetic, our bottle, which had been circulating at auctions for a good few years, was most certainly a fake and quite possibly the most expensive young blended scotch in the world!

“This result, whilst personally disappointing, goes to show that we’re really dealing with some top class imitations.”

It is forecast that the UK whisky auction market will trade around 55,000 bottles and turn over around £12,000,000 by the end of 2016. RW101 says trust in the market is “key” to future growth.

RW101 co-founder David Robertson added: “The risk for the market is that we’re seeing an increasing number of old, rare archive or antique bottles coming to market, and it’s very difficult for the untrained eye to verify authenticity.

“Our Laphroaig 1903 would seem to suggest that there are now some very good quality fakes which have been recently created to fool unsuspecting connoisseurs, collectors and investors into parting with serious money. Indeed, the forgeries that we’ve uncovered could be just the tip of the iceberg.

“So our message to whisky fans is buyers beware! Don’t take the chance to acquire rare, old, antique looking whisky unless you can be 100% sure of its provenance.”

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No