Help at hand for whisky investors to avoid fake products

The firm says whiskys increasingly popularity as an investment option is putting it in the crosshairs of counterfeiters. Picture: contributed.
The firm says whiskys increasingly popularity as an investment option is putting it in the crosshairs of counterfeiters. Picture: contributed.
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A Fife-based online auctioneer is embarking on a roadshow to help consumers keen to invest in whisky avoid counterfeit versions of the spirit.

Dunfermline-based Just Whisky is holding the free valuation sessions, advising customers on what’s fake and what’s not, later this month – stopping off in Islay, Glasgow and Aberlour. The firm says whisky’s increasingly popularity as an investment option is putting it in the crosshairs of counterfeiters.

Just Whisky says the colour of the spirit can be a key indicator. Picture: contributed.

Just Whisky says the colour of the spirit can be a key indicator. Picture: contributed.

To coincide with the valuation roadshow, the auctioneer is also launching a guide to help buyers “invest safely and know the tell-tale signs of a fake”.

The guide defines what a fake is, with tricks used ranging from taking a label from a more expensive bottle and transferring it to a cheaper one, to refilling an empty bottle with a cheaper whisky, and counterfeiters simply creating their own labels.

It also offers tips on what else to look for to avoid purchasing a fake in error. For example, bottle codes can also be a very useful tool, Just Whisky said – and on more modern bottles, the glass can be imprinted with a unique code. Usually it is printed directly on the glass, including information about the whisky, where it was bottled, and at what time.

“Sometimes, the difference between a £500 bottle and a £3,000 one will be a vintage identifier shoulder label. It may well say 1937 or similar,” Just Whisky noted.

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But the firm stressed that there’s “no need to be Sherlock Holmes” when it comes to identifying the real thing.

Effective

Graham Crane, co-founder of Just Whisky, said: “Paying attention to something as simple as the colour of the whisky is a simple but effective way of identifying that all is not well. Buyers should ask: is the colour what they would expect – how does it compare with other sold examples?

“Where a bottle is being sourced is also an indication of whether it may be fake. Is it from a reputable supplier, does it have a box and certificate as it should?

“Investing in an appreciating asset like whisky is both enjoyable but carries an element of risk when bought privately – for buyers parting with substantial cash, it is essential that it is the genuine article.”

In August, it was revealed that an artificial “tongue” can detect the subtle differences between whiskies – in what was billed as a potential valuable tool in combating alcohol counterfeiting.

It came after laboratory tests on 55 “rare” Scotch whiskies acquired on the secondary market revealed 21 to be fake, the valuation and consultancy service Rare Whisky 101 found. The world’s most expensive dram of whisky was found to be a fake in November 2017, after a Chinese millionaire paid £7,600 for 2cl of the purported 1878 Macallan in a Swiss hotel bar.