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Buffalo Trace battles fake Pappy with US$500k investment

Buffalo Trace Distillery has invested more than US$500,000 in tackling online counterfeit market sales of Pappy Van Winkle over the past 12 months.

The Van Winkle range of Bourbons can command very high prices

The Kentucky distillery, in collaboration with the Van Winkle family, recently provided evidence of counterfeiting with regards to two bottles of Pappy Van Winkle – a coveted brand of rare Bourbon.

A New York resident pleaded guilty to the sale of two bottles of Pappy Van Winkle for US$1,500 and will be sentenced in January 2018.

The case was the first successful prosecution of counterfeit Van Winkle Bourbon to date, while further cases are under investigation, according to Buffalo Trace.

“Sadly, the Van Winkle Bourbons are the latest victim of counterfeiting where innocent consumers are duped,” said Mark Brown, president and CEO of Sazerac, owner of the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

As the Van Winkle annual release approaches, Buffalo Trace is warning consumers to only make purchases from licensed retailers.

“Avoid buying any Bourbon or whiskey, especially the highly sought after ones, from anyone in the secondary market, which includes online private sellers, or in these social media groups that claim to offer genuine products,” added Brown.

“The only legal and reputable source you should be buying from is a licensed retailer.”

Julian Van Winkle, president of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, added: “It’s disheartening to see this happening and to see innocent consumers being swindled.

“We cannot stress enough to be careful, and do not buy your Van Winkle products on the secondary market. The old adage of if seems too good to be true, it probably is, definitely applies here.”

Counterfeiters have been known to refill empty bottles of Van Winkle Bourbon with cheaper liquids and print fake labels.

Buffalo Trace has cautioned that bottles that do not have a matching face label and capsule on top with the proper corresponding colour is a “sure sign of fraud”. Consumers who find suspicious bottles are asked to their local law enforcement, their state’s Attorney General, or their state Alcohol and Beverage Control Board.

Last month, the leader of a criminal gang that stole more than US$100,000 worth of Bourbon from the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries pleaded guilty to amended charges.

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