Next time you’re at a cocktail party, swirling that vintage Scotch whisky in your glass and feeling fancy, you might want to think twice about what you’re actually drinking. During tests conducted at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, it was discovered that 21 out of 55 bottles of rare Scotch whisky were actually fakes, or not distilled in the year stated. The study was inspired by whisky broker Rare Whisky 101, who was concerned about the growing prevalence of fake Scotch whisky. Using advanced radiocarbon dating techniques, the study managed to establish the true age of each bottle.
Among whiskies identified as fake included an Ardbeg 1885, acquired from a private owner, and a Thorne’s Heritage early 20th Century blended whisky, obtained from an auction. According to Rare Whisky 101, 10 single malts claiming to be from 1900 or earlier were discovered to be fake. It also estimated that about $52 million worth of rare whisky currently in circulation and in collections is fake — that’s more than the entire UK whisky auction market.
Despite the abundance of fake whiskies, it doesn’t appear that this falsification is the fault of vendors. David Robertson, co-founder of Rare Whisky 101, told BBC News that the vast majority of vendors have no idea they’re selling fake whisky. To be safe, he said, every rare bottle “should be assumed fake until proven genuine…the exploding demand for rare whisky is inevitably attracting rogue elements to the sector.”