“New to whiskey collection and looking for how to spot a fake whiskey? Or have you fallen prey to fake whiskey sellers, and you want to avoid a repeat? Or maybe you are just a whiskey lover that is concerned with buying the original of your favorite drink?”
Either way, you want to identify a fake whiskey during purchase easily.
As the value of whiskey increases, so does the number of fakes. Besides the fact that fake whiskey has cost whiskey lovers money and time, it has also killed many. Fake whiskey could contain just anything, including the dangerous methanol. Because they are produced in unlicensed distilleries, there are no regulatory checks to ensure their safety for consumption.
As a non-professional buyer or collector, your chances of being sold fake bottles are high. That’s more so if you are not familiar with the original product.
Thankfully, there are basic checks you can run on whiskey bottles before purchase to ascertain authenticity. Don’t worry about professional skills; just anyone can run these checks. All it requires is careful attention to detail.
By the time you are done reading this article, you should be able to spot a fake whiskey easily. This will drastically reduce your likelihood of being scammed into buying fake whiskey. Keep reading.
Eight Easy Tips for Spotting a Fake Whiskey
You might find it difficult to spot the fake if you don’t know the original. If you’re new to the industry, then it is important you check (and get familiar with) what the original looks like before attempting to buy. You can easily do this online. The following eight tips will help you spot a fake whiskey from the bottle.
- The Cap
When you hold a bottle of whiskey, feel round the cap. How does it feel?
Caps on real whiskey should feel smooth, tight, and unbroken. If the cap feels loose and moves freely, it is a fake whiskey.
Ensure that the color, material, and print of the cap are no different from known examples. Carefully examine the base of the screw cap to ensure that the breakaway base was not reattached. If the base ring looks broken in any way or feels rough, it is fake.
- Fill Level
The fill level of a whiskey tells you a lot about it. Older whiskey bottles have lower fill levels because alcohol decreases and ullage (airspace) increases over time. If you see an old bottle of whiskey that’s filled all the way up or the midlevel, it is a refilled bottle and fake. Bear in mind that fake content can be filled into genuine bottles.
Modern whiskey bottles are generally filled to neck midlevel. It might be difficult to spot a fake in isolation, especially if the bottle is genuine. But there’s a way around it. When buying from a shop, check all whiskey bottles on display to ascertain their fill levels are the same. Inconsistent fill levels of the same brand in a shop are an indicator of manual filling.
- The Shake Test
The frosty bubbles (beading) that form when you shake a whiskey bottle are usually to the whiskey’s alcohol level. It is one easy way to spot a fake whiskey.
Give the bottle a nice shake and closely watch the beading. Frosty bubbles on a bottle with 40% alcohol volume will disappear in less than 10 seconds. Bubbles in those with 45% alcohol by volume (ABV) should disappear in less than 15 seconds. Beading on whiskey bottled at 50% ABV or more should disappear in less than 25 seconds.
If beading persists for long or is not consistent with alcohol volume, it is a fake.
- Tax Seal/Strip
Tax strips on whiskey bottles are usually unique to their country of origin. Get familiar with what the original bottle’s tax strip looks like and what part of the bottle is placed. Compare what you have with the original.
However, counterfeiters most often transfer tax seals from old wine bottles to disguise the fakes. So, it is not enough that there is a tax seal and that it is at the right place. Feel around the strip for any sign of stickiness, and check if it is properly aligned. If it is sticky and not aligned, it is a fake whiskey.
Labels are a good indicator of authentic or fake whiskey, especially if both bottle and content are fake. A label might look exactly the same as the original at first glance, but close examination will reveal a lot. Look out for wrong spellings, mistakes, and inconsistent letterings in the text.
With a magnifying glass, examine the printing for pixilation or vertical ridges. These are indicators of home-printed copies.
Original labels from older bottles are often removed and placed on another bottle. Feel around the edges of the label for stickiness, which indicates recently applied adhesive.
- Look for Sediments
Sediments are often seen at the bottom of whiskies bottled in the 1970s and earlier. It is most common in sherry cask whiskies. The absence of sediments in these bottles indicates refill with more modern whisky.
Counterfeit bottles of whisky are usually sold way cheaper than the original. If a vintage bottle of whiskey is being sold at an illogical discount, it is probably fake. Vintage whisky is usually expensive. However, being expensive does not make it original. Many collectors have purchased the fake at the price of the original.
- Location of Purchase
As a collector, your chances of buying a fake bottle of whiskey are determined by where you buy it. Avoid unknown sellers, unknown markets, secondhand shops, and street dealers. It is advisable to buy directly from distilleries, auction houses, and well-known websites. You could also hire professional collectors to help you buy.
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Whiskey collection has become a huge and lucrative industry. Counterfeits have made it a painful enterprise for most collectors. Being familiar with the original and carrying out the checks listed above will enable you easily spot a fake whiskey. It will spare you the pain of losing valuable time and money.
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