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Prestige Whiskeys are Drawing Scammers and Counterfeits, How to NOT Get Conned


Prestige Whiskey buyers beware, before you go on a unicorn hunt for super-premium spirits to stock your man cave with, avoid the scammers and knock offs. Nobody wants to shell out big bucks for a bottle unless the liquid inside matches the label. With modern internet retail, experts have seen “suburban dads counterfeiting just for an extra buck.”

Prestige in a bottle

Buyers of distilled beverages looking for the prestige of “luxury bourbon” or similar “top shelf” American whiskey, Scotch whisky, or other rare spirit are falling prey to scammers “cashing in by selling bottles of premium brands refilled with cheap substitutes.”

If you’re willing to spend a thousand dollars for a super-premium label to impress your friends with, it could become a shocking embarrassment if anyone actually tried to drink it.

There’s a boom market right now in the “domestic sales of super-premium American whiskey.” Those are generally “bottles valued at” more than $50 dollars.

With demand far outstripping the “prestige” supply which sits “at the very high end of the market where bottles sell for at least $500,” the demand frenzy has attracted opportunists out to make a fast buck.

Watch out for smoking deals popping up “mostly within private social-media groups.” While sales or trades through such groups is technically illegal, many people are doing it anyway.

Making it more difficult to prosecute, “Kentucky and New York and some other places are loosening laws to allow private collectors to sell through an auction or to licensed retailers.” That destroys the supply-chain side safeguards on prestige brands.

Sold as authentic

Between 2016 and 2020, sales of super-premium American prestige whiskey “nearly doubled to 4 million cases.” About a year ago, one Manhattan wine shop investigated by TV crews under cover swore up and down “that a bottle of bourbon it was selling for about $1,000 was authentic.”

The team noticed that the “Col. E.H. Taylor Four Grain bourbon was without the usual packaging of a special cardboard tube, and a strip stamp attached over the top of the cork was on backwards.” They bought it and took it to the distiller for analysis.

Buffalo Trace brews the Col. E.H. Taylor line of magic elixir in Kentucky and their lab put it through testing.

They weren’t surprised to report that “the bottle was refilled with cheap whiskey, resealed, then sold to the wine shop as part of a private collection.” The shop really thought they had a prestige product and stood behind the sale, offering “refunds on bottles it had already sold.”

If you happen to be trying to put another of the prestige unicorns brewed by Buffalo Trace behind your bar, Pappy Van Winkle could set you back more than $5,000 on the secondary market. The empty bottle sells for around $380 on the interweb. Fill it full of Jack Daniels and nobody would know the difference, unless they tasted it.

According to Adam Herz, an expert whiskey collector, the driving force is simple economics. “$380 for a single bottle. Why? Because that bottle can be refilled and sold for way over $2,000. I’ve seen suburban dads counterfeiting just for an extra buck.” One thing to always remember when hunting those unicorns, “Many distilleries continue to package bottles with common shrink-wrap seals that can be easily faked.”

What do you think?

Written by Staff Editor

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