Rare whisky found to be fake

Lab tests on 21 different bottles of rare Scotch whisky - potentially worth around £635,000 - have found them to be fake.

Three of the whiskies which were found to be counterfeit.

The tests, carried out by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), have sparked warnings that £41 million of rare whisky currently circulating in the secondary market and present in existing collections, could be counterfeit.

From 55 bottles of Scotch whisky that were acquired by whisky experts Rare Whisky 101 (RW101) from different sources through the secondary market, 21 were confirmed by SUERC as either outright fakes or whiskies not distilled in the year declared. All malt whisky samples purporting to be from around 1900 or earlier were found to be fake.

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Of particular note, were three bottles of rare whisky acquired recently by RW101 through three different channels – a bottle of Ardbeg 1885 taken from a private owner, a bottle of rare

Thorne’s Heritage early 20th Century blended whisky purchased from an auctioneer and a bottle of Ardbeg purported to be bottled in the 1960’s bought from a retailer. All three were proven to be fakes.

If tests had proven all 21 bottles to be genuine, collectively they could have been valued at around £635,000.

Professor Gordon Cook, head of the Radiocarbon Laboratory at SUREC - a research centre within the University of Glasgow’s College of Science and Engineering - said: “We have had significant help from the major distillers who provided whisky samples of known age that allowed us to start this work.

“It is disappointing to see the large percentage of vintage whiskies that turn out to be fake. However, we have developed a very powerful technique to beat the fraudsters and I’d advise anyone thinking about selling what they consider to be an early product to have it analysed.”

The process through which these whiskies have been dated is based on the evolving science of identifying levels of radiocarbon within the liquid.

The auction market for rare whisky is forecast in the UK alone to exceed 100,000 bottles for 2018, at a value of more than £36m.

David Robertson, co-founder of RW101, said: “We are clearly disappointed to discover that, without exception, every single “antique” pre-1900 distilled whisky RW101 have had analysed over the last two years has proven to be fake.

“It is our genuine belief that every purported pre-1900 - and in many cases much later - bottle should be assumed fake until proven genuine, certainly if the bottle claims to be a single malt Scotch whisky. This problem will only grow as prices for rare bottles continue to increase.”