Fake Scotch whisky worth £1m recovered from auction market

One of the counterfeit whiskies was claiming to be a rare Laphroaig 1903. Picture: ContributedOne of the counterfeit whiskies was claiming to be a rare Laphroaig 1903. Picture: Contributed
One of the counterfeit whiskies was claiming to be a rare Laphroaig 1903. Picture: Contributed
A haul of counterfeit Scotch whisky worth close to £1 million has been recovered from the auction market.

Whisky analysts Rare Whisky 101 revealed that a number of bottles purporting to be from distilleries including Macallan and Laphroaig had been discovered.

A bottle of Laphroaig 1903 worth £100,000 - supposedly one of the oldest whiskies from the Islay distillery still in existence - as well as two sets of Fine and Rare Macallan worth £500,000 and £250,000 were among the whiskies in the haul, which totalled £850,000.

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The founders of Rare Whisky 101, Andy Simpson and David Robertson, are understood to have picked up the Laphroaig at a 2015 auction and spent six months testing the whisky and examining the glass, cork and make-up of the liquid to prove its authenticity.

A sample of the whisky was carbon dated at the University of Oxford, with results strongly suggesting that the liquid was in fact created between 2007 and 2009, according to thedrinksbusiness.com.

Other results indicated that it was a blended whisky rather than a single malt.

Mr Simpson said that the results proved the industry was dealing with ‘top class imitations.’

He added: “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.”

The fake whisky was supposedly bottled by Mackies, with one prominent Dutch collector of Laphroaig suggesting earlier this year that Mackies bottlings were among the ‘Holy Grail’.

Marcel van Gils told scotchwhisky.com in February: “I think the 1903 Mackies you see today are ‘inventions’.”

David Robertson warned that the counterfeit Laphraoig 1903 could be ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.

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Mr 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.”

Part of the issue, according to Rare Whisky 101, is that with whisky growing as an investment category, the number - and the quality - of fakes is also on the rise.

Mr Robertson warned collectors to be wary of rare whiskies, adding: “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 per cent sure of its provenance.”