Authenticating Whisky

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How to Tell if Whisky is Fake

The value of some whisky bottles has significantly increased in recent times, particularly for older specimens or limited releases. Unfortunately, as with anything of higher value, this has led to an increase in the number of counterfeit bottles on the market. If you’re looking to spend a considerable amount of money on a bottle of whisky as an investment or trophy, it is important to know what to look out for in order to avoid buying fake whisky. 

As with any valuable purchase, you need to exercise caution and due diligence to ensure that you are purchasing a genuine product. This article provides guidance on how to tell if whisky is fake, covering some common counterfeit methods and ways to check your bottle’s authenticity. 


Common Counterfeit Methods

Swapping the Label: One method of deceiving buyers is the transfer of labels from a premium bottle, which would command a large sum of money, to a cheaper bottle. This misleads the buyer to believe that they are buying something which they are not, and more importantly parting with a large sum of money for an illegitimate product. 

Refilled Bottles: When an empty bottle is filled with a different liquid and then resealed. The label and glass may appear authentic, but the contents within are certainly not. 

Counterfeit Labels: Counterfeiters often obtain a glass bottle resembling the original product and match its production codes, before creating and affixing their own labels. Detecting this process is possible by examining the label for low quality printing, checking for missing or incorrect packaging, the appearance of excessive glue application or glue residue. 


How to avoid buying fake whisky

When you have identified a bottle you would like to purchase, whether for your own enjoyment or as an investment, we recommend really getting to know the bottle you are interested and learn what it should - or shouldn’t - look like. 

The Bottle Code

Bottle codes serve as a valuable resource to verify certain aspects. Firstly, its important to differentiate between the various types of codes. Some contemporary bottles may feature a distinctive code imprinted onto the glass. Typically, this code is incorporated into the bottling process by the distillery and contains details such as the bottling location, time, and occasionally, the type of whisky contained within. 

On older bottles, codes may be located on the base of the glass bottle which can help determine the estimated production date. It is essential to verify if the production dates match the whisky you are looking for.

The Shoulder

Whisky labels can be very difficult to differentiate between, so it often comes down to the shoulder label of a bottle, and whether it is a vintage identifier or not. If the high-value bottle you are looking to purchase does not have a vintage identifier, then it is unlikely to be exactly what you want. If it does have a vintage identifier, check for signs of removal or reapplication to ensure that the shoulder label is original.

The Colour

Older whisky tends to be a lot darker than that which is more recently produced. If you’re looking at spending considerable money on a whisky that is 30, 40, or 50+ years old, yet when you see the bottle for sale the liquid is pale in colour, this could be a major red flag. Check online for images and examples of the bottle you are looking for, as this is a great way to judge if the whisky is authentic or not. 

The Seal

If you have a chance to see or handle the bottle, take a good look at the seal. It may sound obvious, but check that the seal has not been broken, punctured, or tampered with in any way, as this is a definitive sign that the bottle is not legitimate. Walk away from a bottle like this, especially when there are hundreds, if not thousands of pounds on the line. 

The Seller

Do you know the seller? Is it a recognised whisky retailer or auction house, or is it some unknown person you just happened to come across on the internet. Can the bottle be verified, does it come with everything it should do, such as the box and any certification? At WVA, we pride ourselves on selling authentic, exclusive and high-quality bottles of whisky of all different kinds and origins. 

Improve your knowledge about investing in whisky by taking a look at our dedicated article here.

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