In Brief

Third of rare Scotch whiskies are fakes, according to study

Researchers estimate that upwards of £41m worth of imitation whisky may be sloshing around

Millions of pounds worth of Scotch whiskies being sold as rare vintages are “modern fakes” with misleading labelling, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that 21 out of 55 bottles of supposedly rare Scotch analysed were outright fakes or were not distilled in the year declared.

The samples were sent for testing by whisky broker Rare Whisky 101 (RW101) amid “growing concerns in the industry about counterfeit whiskies in the secondary market” - where the popular spirit is bought and sold between private dealers and owners, at auctions and online, reports CNN.

A team at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), in East Kilbride, “measured residual concentrations of a radioactive isotope of carbon present in the alcohol contained in each bottle in order to establish the ages of the whiskies”, says the BBC

The results showed that 38% of the samples were mislabelled - and every malt whisky sample supposedly from the start of the last century or earlier was found to be fake. 

RW101 co-founder David Robertson said: “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.”

The imitations could have been fetched up to £635,000 on the market, according to the company, which estimates that up to £41m worth of rare whiskies may be circulating in the secondary market.

The value of all the dodgy booze is worth more than the entire UK whisky auction market, which is expected to exceed £36m by the end of this year.

“This problem will only grow as prices for rare bottles continue to increase,” Robertson said. “The exploding demand for rare whisky is inevitably attracting rogue elements to the sector.”

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