(Current entries)




War on whisky fakers

Archives page 1 - Current entries

January 24, 2008

Bottle: Highland Park 21yo OB
Seller: nonno_oreste
Date of auction: 23.10.07, eBay - Price: £ 105
Problem: bottle does not match

This Highland Park 21yo (at the right) was made for Ferraretto Italy. It was never bottled in any other kind of bottle than this dumpy. The bottle at the left is a fake, probably a relabelled old blend. What's surprising is that it's a driven cork, obviously much older than the label, that dates from around 1980. Fake!

TIP: when spotting a very unusual bottle for cheap, especially of a rare and sought after version (these dumpy HP's may go for around 400/500 Euros these days), please consider that any dedicated collector would have seen it and put a much higher bid than you.

January 23, 2008

Bottle: Port Ellen 22yo 1978 Rare Malts

January 22, 2008

Bottle: Tormore 10yo
Seller: docccc (Munich, Germany)
Date of auction: 28.10.07, eBay - Price: EUR 162
Problem: re-painted twist cap
Comments: we think these pictures tell the whole story, don't they? Ah, yes, in case you don't speak the language of Goethe, 'Pinsel-reiniger' means 'brush cleaner'. The clever buyer had thought something was dodgy and decided to find out. Actually, white had been painted over the original cream paint, on which something was written: INVER HOUSE (probably a bottle of Green Plaid or Red Plaid, a blend that you could get for roughly 15 Euros on whiskyauction.com - and no, Tormore never belonged to Inver House). Besides, both cap and label were too shiny anyway. This is an obvious fake, all made up like a stolen truck!
TIP: always check if painted caps have very small parts that are un-painted, especially under the bottom of the caps (under the ring, near the bottle). It's been confirmed that paint on caps is/was always applied on the flat metal before the cap is formed, and hence should be totally even, except for flakes that may come off with wear - but then the rest of the cap should look old, not brand new. What's more, a whisky company would never, ever repaint an existing cap.
<--- Example of a dodgy Macallan cap.
Bottle: 3 Bowmores 21yo (1972, 1973, 1974)
Item # 160166864079, 160166865350, 160166865952
Seller: caposiux (Firenze, Italy)
Date of auction: 12.10.07, eBay - Price: EUR 123, 101, 101
Problem: please try to find out...
Okay, let's make this a little game if you agree. Here are pictures of these three Bowmores that a good friend bought on eBay (don't bother with colour variations please)... All are identical, except for the vintages of course.
Right, let's focus on the 1972 for a while. Below are the three known versions of the 21yo 1972 - pictures by a famous Bowmore collector (these bottles are now in the distillery's collection). Namely the 'regular' 43% - 70cl version, the 43% - 75cl version and the cask strength version that was exclusive to Germany.
Bowmore 21
Okay, now, let's have a look at the old 'regular' 21yo that we all know very well if you please...

Right, do you have good eyes? If yes, and if you spent a little time adimiring these marvellous pictures, you may have found out about that very small detail that tells us that the 1972 (and both the 1973 and 1974 as well in fact) that our friend bought was a fake, or at least a very dodgy bottling...

So, did you spot that detail?

You didn't? Good, please have a look at the name 'BOWMORE' on all these labels...

Yes, you're right, it's all about the 'R'!!! (that means 'registered').
Indeed, on the genuine 21yo 1972 at 43% (both 70 and 75cl versions), the R is above the 'E'.
But on the CS version for Germany as well as on the regular 'no vintage' version, the R is next to the 'E', not above the 'E'.

So, it seems that the forgers didn't pay attention to this very small detail, did they? Thank god, we did...

Now, our friend who bout these fakes showed the bottles to various experts, and it seems that there are several other possible evidences of these being fakes:

- filling level is to high, most vintage Bowmore are filled into the lower neck.
- no boxes.
- the blue sky in the label is a different kind of blue as compared to other bottles.
- the label doesn't have any embossement (raised design).
- the golden letters, when held against the light, don't reflect as they should.
- the edges of the label look 'cut'.

All these clues are difficult to spot on a picture but the 'R' trick should help you spot the fakes! To sum up:
All these vintages at 43% should have the 'R' above the 'E'. All these vintages at Cask Strength or 'no-vintage' versions should have it next to the E. As for these three bottles; they are probably 'simpler' or 'cheaper' Bowmores that have been relabelled by the forgers.

By the way, there's another one in live eBay auctions these days: item #220193339599. What do you say? Fake? Genuine?
Bottle: Macallan 1947 (1 BOTTLE)
Item # 230214772568
Date of auction: 24.01.08, eBay - Price: 0 bids so far
Problem: which bottle is it?.

Comments: the seller added various pictures on this item's page. The problem is that they weren't all of the same bottle. We're not saying this is a fraud, but whether you'll get bottle #1 or bottle #2 will make for quite a difference, won't it! Nutshell: it's always better to ask questions before you bid too quickly....

Jan 22 update: picture of good bottle 'stolen' here. WARNING!

January 21, 2008

Bottle: Macallan Gran Reserva 1979
Item # 120210917453
Date of auction: 27.01.08, eBay - Price: EUR 138.00 so far
Problem: capsule again!
Macallan GR
Comments: the kind seller sent us detailed pictures of this item (he's not one of these 'forgers' and bought the bottle a few years ago from Italy). The labels and bottle were perfect but something wasn't quite right with the capsule. So, we compared it with a genuine bottle we had on our shelves and found out that the genuine capsule was perfect whilst the 'dodgy' one was sort of wrinkled at the bottom and over the cap. This indicates that the bottle has probably been refilled, the capsule having been replaced by hand. Very dodgy at best! (sorry, colour variations come from 'computerising').

January 20, 2008

Bottle: Springbank 30yo dumpy
Item # 180206331471
Date of auction: 20.01.08, eBay - Price: EUR 128.77 so far
Problem: capsule!
Springbank 30
Comments: at the left, the bottle that's on auction. Sorry, we did not crop it in height, the seller did it. He was asked to provide us with better pictures but replied that he didn't have any.Hmm. At the right, various genuine versions of the 30yo (thanks, Michiel). So, there is an obvious problem with the closure. Either it's an open bottle or the cap just isn't genuine. Yes, hard to tell, but as the bottle isn't advertised as being open, this shouldn't be bought without due explanations. Very dodgy. Always ask for good and complete pictures!

January 19, 2008

LATEST NEWS FROM THE FRONT – Our Whisky Watchdogs Council (nicknamed the War Cabinet) has now two new eminent members. After the honourable Dave Broom, Carsten Ehrlich and Sukhinder Singh, we’re happy to report that Iain Russell and Doug Stone just accepted to join the squad.
- Iain is a top archivist currently working at the Scottish Brewing Archive but with past experience with whisky firms, most notably Chivas. He was closely involved in the Macallan fakes issue and his most recent investigation was into the questioned date given to the Mutter Bowmore.
- Doug is a paper conservator. He’s been affiliated with the Institute of Paper Chemistry, Appleton, Wisconsin (now Institute of Paper Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, part of Georgia Tech University) as a consultant since 1978 and a member of the advisory board to the Dard Hunter Paper museum (now American Museum of Papermaking) for about 15 years. He’s studying a lot about printing history and enjoys learning about what happened when in the history of technology. Doug has also been working on a whisky industry database for about 25 years.
Other than that, baccusvr (ex-nonno_oreste) is no longer a registered user on ebay. Now, he may use his other nicknames of course, so please be cautious with sudden brand new sellers from Tuscany.
Also, it seems that the forgers had quite a few undersold bottles these days, many being bought back by themselves. As an Italian friend put it, ‘the cat is eating his own tail’.

AND A REQUEST: PLEASE DO NOT SELL labels, empty bottles or boxes to people whom you don't know or trust, at least don't sell 'collectable' bottles. If you do that some may think that you're in collusion with the forgers. What's more, empty bottles make for beautiful lamp stands, so why not keep them?...

And before we go on with a few new examples of fakes (and probable genuines), let’s express another tip if you please: when a seller has got some buyers who buy a lot of items from him and who are located in the very same city/region (or are blacklisted or dodgy sellers), beware! And remember, never, ever buy when a seller’s feedback is private/hidden.

Bottle: Ardbeg 1977 OB
Item # 260202872300
Seller: ittich Germany
Date of auction: 20.01.08, eBay - Price: EUR 1.00 so far
Problem: what do you think?
Ardbeg Comments: something is not quite right here... Did you spot the problem? Yeah, the bottle is empty BUT the capsule is 'immaculately intact'. Actually, the seller (very honest no doubt) explains on the eBay page how easy it is to remove an Ardbeg's capsule and to replace it afterwards. This is also true with all the 'Manager's Choice' or single casks that fetch such high prices on eBay and elsewhere. I know that this may give bad hints to dishonest people but I prefer us whisky lovers to be warned. And just between us, I think that the company should invest a little money in this issue (come up with 'faker-proof' closures ASAP!!!) instead of running after the uber-rich with stupid packagings.
What's more, don't tell me that my compatriots LVMH aren't used to deal with fakers...
So please, Ardbeg, again, we love you but PLEASE do something. And many thanks, ittich! (and Patrick).
While I'm at it, I think it would be a smart move for many bottlers not to make the forgers' lives even easier (and ours messier) by issuing expensive versions using the very same bottles AND CAPSULES as for their core ranges. Laphroaig springs to mind (there has already been many fake 30yo's made out of 10yo Cask Strength or 15yo, for instance, and the company is very well aware of that, so why didn't they use at least a different capsule on the newest 25yo?)
Bottle: 3 x Macallan 50yo 1928 Anniversary
Item # 190183276012
Date of auction: 19.12.07, eBay - Price: GBP 3,600.00
Seller: tanx123, London, UK. (it seems that this ID has been hacked according to eBay)
Problem: faked tax stripes?
Mac Stripe

Comments: This is an amazing story. The sale was for 1 lot of 3 of these bottles, not sold individually. There has been 16 bids (private of course). A friend asked the seller for pictures of all three bottles because there was only one pictured bottle on the eBay page and he wanted to make sure that the seller really had 3. These are the pictures our friend got in the reply.. (see below...)

This is obviously the same picture of the same bottle, only the numbers on the tax stripe having been photoshopped (#556573, 596573, 595573). It is to be wondered what the actual buyer has got... If there ever was an actual buyer that is. What's sure is that the forgers aren't too bad at Photoshopping, which is even scarier, isn't it?
Bottle: Macallan 1951
Item # 300189398057
Seller: lisas4199, Lucca, Italy
Date of auction: 13.01.08, eBay - Price: EUR 300.00
Problem: wrong bottle
Mac 1951 Macallan 1951 Comments: it's very tricky to spot these fake Macallans. In this case, you should know that all 1951's always came in the 'thinner' style bottle of Macallan, that had the same diameter all the way down the bottle (picture at the right) whilst this fake is conical (broad shoulders, bottle getting then thinner - picture at the left). This is yet another fake Macallan.
Bottle: Macallan 30yo blue label
Item # 330188755062
Seller: portokalo2023
Date of auction: 18.11.07, eBay - Price: GBP 180.00
Problem: whisky colour, label code
Mac 30 Comments: the whisky is much paler in colour than the genuine 30yo, which used to be one of the darkest recent Macallans (alas, you can't see that from a picture). Most importantly, every genuine bottle should have a lot number visible near the bottom on the back of the front label (this was confirmed by the distillery) but this one hasn't got any. This is an obvious fake, like most 30yo 'blue label' or 25yo 'Anniversary' one can/could find at Italian sellers and/or their Munich/London/New York 'branches'. Well, actually, we'd even say 'just don't touch any old Macallan/seller that hasn't got an excellent pedigree.'
Bottle: Laphroaig 30yo OB
Item # 300188668324
Date of auction: 17.01.08, eBay - Price: EUR 254.55
Problem: different bottles on picture
Laph 30
Two pictures of what should be the same bottle... GAME: SPOT THE DIFFERENCE!
Comments: right, it's not uncommon that a seller puts a picture of a bottle that's the same as the one he's willing to sell, but that's not a picture of the actual bottle. We guess that you saw that both capsules don't have the same lengths here. That doesn't mean that the bottle is a fake of course, but that at least one of the pictures just can't be a picture of the bottle that's for sale. Okay, let's say this is 'very slightly dodgy', especially since there are so many fake Laph 30yo's around. Anyway, no need to pillory the seller here! (both versions existed in real life anyway)
Bottle: Macallan 1959 80° Campbell Hope & King Rinaldi
Item # 360003699401
Date of auction: 11.12.07, eBay - Price: GBP 160.00
Seller: nonno_oreste aka bacusvr, Italy (no longer a member).
Problem: Shipped bottle does not match advertised one.
Macallan 1959
Left, the picture that was on the eBay page. Right, the bottle that the buyer got.
Comments: it seems that both neck labels were used on this '80° proof' so there's no obvious evidence that this is a fake. However, the seller's 'pedigree' (he's no longer a member of eBay by the way, under this nickname that is) and the fact that the bottle does not match the advertised item makes it dodgy at best.
Bottle: Bowmore 'Ship Label' OB 26 2/3 fl ozs
Item # 330175776560
Date of auction: 13.10.07, eBay - Price: GBP 210.00
Seller: portokalo2023, Firenze, Italy.
Problem: cap too long? Maybe label issues.

Comments: this was bought by a Japanese friend (and many other nice people around the world I'm afraid). The label looks brand new and the level astonishingly high but this is no evidence... The cap is longer than usual 'ship labels' from Italy but there has been such caps in the UK. Sure it's a bit strange that Italian sellers sell bunches of possible UK versions - and we saw many labels for sale in collections - but it's not possible to claim that this is an obvious fake. Now, a member of the Whisy Watchdogs Council bought one of these 'eBayed' bottles (perfect label, booklet, strange bottom glass code - too new) and opened it right away. It didn't taste like Bowmore at all... Let's say this is dodgy at best.


January 16, 2008

REAL NAMES OF THE FORGERS? I'm afraid we won't ever publish them on these pages. We're sorry but even if forging old bottles of whisky is very serious matters, we don't think it would be fair to cause these people more trouble than they actually deserve (which is still a lot, agreed). So, dear fraudsters - we know you read these pages -, we think what would be best would be simply to stop selling fake bottles and focus on genuine whiskies, because we know that you sell some as well. Please, guys!
NOTE: WE'RE GETTING DOZENS AND DOZENS of Fake Alerts and just can't publish them all immediately, nor even answer to everyone as quickly as we wished, but be sure that we will so please be patient, thank you! (gee, it seems that we really started something!)
Besides, we'll be travelling for three days and won't be able to update Whiskyfun until we're back, sorry for that. But here's good reading for you (not from me!)
We got this very good and very enlightening piece from our friend Malcolm Sievwright and decided to publish it in entirety (we just deleted very short parts because they were, well, a bit 'too early' for our common cause). Many, many thanks Malcolm, this is a MUST READ!...
EBAY FAKES - A SPOTTER'S GUIDE - by Malcolm Sievwright
Just over 2 months ago I decided to start collecting whisky. The idea being that I would hopefully accumulate a collection that might appreciate in value with the fallback that I could just drink those bottles who failed me.
As a regular user of ebay I thought that I would check out what was available and look to try and find a few bargains. Most of the bottles that caught my eye happened to come from Italian Sellers. I knew that this would not necessarily come as a surprise as a lot of good collectors come from Italy and they do have good taste in drink as in a lot of the other finer things in life.
I carefully checked the feedback of those users that I purchased items from and did a quick check to see that the items looked genuine. I have to say that I was not unduly worried by what I saw and decided to make a purchase of one item and then see what happened. I mean, who do you trust if you don’t trust a power seller.
I purchased the following whisky from portokalo2023:

Bottle: Macallan 18 year old 4 pack 1974-1977
Item # delisted due to broken ebay rules
Seller: portokalo2023
Problem: 1977 and 1976 looked good – but very high fill levels.
1974 and 1975 – same wording as on 1976 and 1977 for importator whilst they are different on known genuine bottles
Comments: left, 1974 and 1975 bought on eBay. Right, genuine bottles. Differences:
1974: dodgy label reads ' Importatori Esclusivi per l'Italia GIOVINETTI (...)'. Genuine label reads: 'Agenti Esclusivi per l'Italia GIOVINETTI (...) Importatori e Distributori'.
1975: dodgy label and genuine label read the same except that 'MILANO' is below 'GIOVINETTI' on genuine label.

Having checked initially I was convinced that these were good bottles at a good price and thought I would dip my toe in the water again. I bought a total of 8 more bottles from the users brigidino61 and nonno_oreste (now baccusvr). Here are a few examples:

Bottle: Ardbeg Guaranteed 10 year old
Item # 200183257074
Seller: brigidino61
Problem: dodgy label.
Left, the bottle sold on eBay.
Right, two genuine versions (conical neck, bulbous neck)
Comments: The big give away (and you can see this from the picture on the item) is that there is no alcohol strength or bottle volume info. Geert Bero, who's an Ardbeg collector, confirms that this is a fake for the same reasons.Moreover, on any old bottle the edges of the golden prints tend to get small dents (hence black) whilst the fakes are immaculate.

Bottle: Bowmore 1972 21 year old
Item # 360001534241
Seller: baccusvr
Problem: genuine bottle but label possibly full of errors.
Bowmore 1972 Comments: on 'dodgy' bottle: drawing not embossed. Vintage oddly placed (not centered). ABV 43% instead of 49.1% but other parts similar. There has been several versions so maybe this is not an obvious fake. Let's say 'very dodgy' for now.
Left, the bottle sold on eBay. Right, a genuine version

Bottle: Springbank 1954 25 Year Old Cadenhead's
Item # 200183256399
Seller: brigidino61
Problem: the 'S' and other details.
Springbank 25 Left, the bottle sold on eBay. Right, a genuine version
Comments: The S in the middle of the label has very weak strikes along the middle and top of the S and there is no label protection panel. Springbank have confirmed that they are sure that the strength of the S would have been the same as in the 'genuine picture'– which I provided them. Also, 'Proprietors: J.A. MITCHELL & CO. LTD.' is placed lower on fake label. Many of these bottles have been recently sold on eBay. WARNING! There's another one of these in live auctions: #320205509874.

Bottle: Laphroaig 1976 OB Vintage
Item # 350004702017
Seller: marcin3147
Problem: capsule too short.
Laphroaig 1976

Left, the bottle sold on eBay. Right, a genuine version

Comments: The seal over the bottle does not extend down enough – plus the box was fake.

There are many fake, that is to say relabelled fake Laphroaig 30yo's or these Vintages indeed. The forgers seem to use bottles of either 10yo Cask Strength (good whisky, that is) or some versions of the 15yo. See pictures below...

1: genuine 1976. 2: the fake 1976. 3: genuine 10yo CS. 4: genuine 15yo
(pictures of genuine caps taken from the XLNT laphroaigcollector.)

The first bottles that I spotted were the dodgy Ardbeg Guaranteed 10 and the Springbank 1954. I twigged first as they all appeared to come from different people but the postal or UPS forms stated that they all came from the same person.
From that moment I went back over my collection and all the bottles from Italy were fakes. In addition I bought 2 bottles from other ebayers which then turned out to have come from our Italian faker friends.
I have got refunds for all the bottles – I just raised a dispute with paypal and the refunds flowed in without any questions. How dodgy is that!
Even worse was to come, a bottle from marcin3147 was, in my view, passed on deliberately. Although I got a full refund the member got very aggressive when I would not return the bottles. He only stopped sending me messages when I pointed out that it was obvious that he was passing them on deliberately. Having admitted previously that he had had problems with a couple of bottles from Italy he continues to buy and pass on bottles.
Having been through this process myself I was keen to pass on the info – that’s why I am writing this article. I found the WhiskyFun war through forums on WhiskyMag.com and this seems the best place to distribute my own hints and tips.
Tip 1) – Trust No One (isn't this a bit excessive? - Ed ;-))
All the users who provided me with fake bottles, and the evidence that I presented to Serge, were reported to Ebay. I got the usual “Thanks for reporting this, we will take action usually within 24 hours but we can’t tell you anything to protect member security”.
Maybe that is being cynical but ebay does a few things that only gain the
trust and security of fakers:
1) Why allow users to have private auctions?
2) Why allow anyone to have private feedback?
3) Why allow Power Sellers to change ID without losing their status?
4) Why not have a completely transparent fraud reporting process
5) Why make user IDs private for auctions which reach a certain price?
Tip 2) Don’t Trust Feedback on it’s own
As you can see from the reports, these users have lots of positive feedback. No doubt most of it is generated by “fake auctions” between their own ebay IDs, but a lot of it is also because the fakes are good enough to fool most of the people most of the time. If someone is selling a bottle then check their feedback – if they have bought from a faker then steer clear.
Tip 3) Be suspicious of private – whether feedback or auction
Tread carefully – not all private auctions will be fake but it is an indicator. Ebays decision to hide user IDs when the auction reaches a certain price (you get user ids like m***s) is yet another example of them protecting the fraudsters.
Private feedback is a definite indication to steer clear – it masks negative feedback and also comments added to positive feedback if a fake is discovered.
Tip 4) Ask for Clear photos
If the photos aren’t clear then ask for more – no reasonable seller would refuse and most invite such requests. And if you get answers back like “Sorry in Poland on holiday can’t get them in time” then that is a good indication that they don’t have the bottle or it really is fake – especially in auctions with a starting price of £495.
If there is only one photo then ask for more. It doesn’t cost a seller very much (90p for 6) to put on multiple picks and I would expect a genuine seller of a valuable bottle to put on a display. Plus it will help in Tip 5.
Try asking for photos of the neck, rear label, box, a clear shot of the bottle against a light background. Again all these are important to a collector – something a genuine seller would welcome.
Tip 5) Do your research
Even if you only get a couple of photos then there is lots you can do. Google is a wonderful tool and provides almost unlimited resources. Compare the photos (or even a bottle you have bought) with photos from shops an collectors. I am sure there will be more than enough links in the war library to help initially.
Be suspicious of expensive bottles without genuine boxes – and you need to try and work out if the box is genuine too.
Areas I now look out for are as follows:
• Is the bottle shape correct? (include label protection panel *)
• Is the closure correct? – cork or capsule, is it damaged, does it look old enough?
• Is the wording on the label correct – labels change from year to year so try and find a really good match to compare against
• Do the fonts look right – printing fonts change so really old fonts are different from new one and trust your instincts
• Do the logos match – wordings might change (especially on neck labels) but logos won’t
• Does the bottle have the correct embossed bits – Bowmore and Highland Park have very noticeable embossed glass logos which are very expensive to fake.
Tip 6) Ask questions
If you are not given enough information then ask. Again a genuine seller won’t mind and it may reveal clues to a fake – like you get a reply from a different member.
Tip 7) Use forums on well know whisky sites
If you are looking here then you know the ones to trust. There is no better place to discuss things. The more opinions you get the better.
Tip 8) Use Paypal – with adequate buyer protection
I got refunds for all my bottles and was covered by £500 Buyer protection. While paypal has it’s faults it does at least provide you with a way to recover your money. Make sure that the Buyer protection covers your bid – and ask the seller if you think that it won’t cover the winning bid as they may be able to raise it.
Paypal gives buyers confidence which leads to better prices for the seller. For some reason a lot of the German Auctions use only Bank Transfer – I don’t know why but it doesn’t fill me with confidence.
Tip 9) Examine the bottle when it arrives
It is much easier to find differences with the bottle in front of you so do your research again when you get it. Don’t give any feedback until you are sure.
Tip 10) Trust your instincts
If something really looks too good to be true then it usually is. From this article you would think that I would never use Ebay again. Not a bit of it – I will think very carefully about bidding on whisky but with these tips (and others that will appear in this campaign) then I think I am in a good position to judge what is a fake.
99% of ebay sellers are the genuine article and we shouldn’t tar the majority just because there are some bad people out there – you just have to be careful. Buyer beware – the same rules as you would apply when buying from a real auction.
- Malcolm Sievwright

January 15, 2008

Bottle: Macallan 1945 (G&M for Pinerolo)
Item # 220188334309
Date of auction: 08.01.08, eBay - Price: USD 676.68
Seller: clubwhisky, New York, USA (and other sellers in Italy).
Problem: recent abundance of these 'Pinerolos' on eBay, shiny labels, immaculate conditions.
Macallan Comments: we've had two of these in our hands, albeit from other vintages. The red lettering is as shiny as if the label was coming directly out of a Xerox printer. Fake stains, possibly printed. Label edges are immaculate. Red caps are immaculate. Bottle doesn't match. Whether 1936, 1937, 1938 (...) or 1945, beware of all these old Pinerolos that look almost brand new! Only boxed bottles may remain that shiny - so, where are the boxes?
Bottle: Talisker "Proof" (Robert Watson)
Item # 130167809288
Date of auction: 30.10.07, eBay - Price: EUR 200.00
Seller: roccobaroccorp, Pistoia, Italy.
Problem: bottle and label don't match. Label was previously bought on eBay by 'portokalo2023' (see our January 12 entry).
Talisker Watson Comments: what's funny (well) is that I could put my hands on a sample of this whisky, thanks to the unfortunate buyer. It does taste like a rather good 'sherried' Talisker indeed, albeit rather a modern one, and reminds me a bit of Talisker Distiller's Edition (too bad I don't have any sample at hand for due comparison). We may have to thank this seller for not pouring putrid swill into his fake bottles, at least. So thanks, roccobaroccorp! ;-) Now, it's also true that it may be a smart move to prevent any lab or distillery from stating that what's inside a bottle does not come from the distillery (any lab would find out, using chromatography or other techniques of which I'm afraid I know next to nothing, even if I know that they do exist).
Jan 22 update: the bottle code (in glass) is SB980. It's a United Glass bottle, made from 1973 to 1977 for Tomatin (Export). So, this is a refilled bottle of Tomatin!
ANOTHER DIRTY LITTLE TRICK used by sellers exposed! Wanna raise the bids on one of your dodgy items? Or put one or several harmless bids on your own item because you know that if nobody bids on it, everybody will think it’s dodgy? Easy, just have another eBay nickname – better with several – and put high bids on your own bottles, that will then have many chances to get over-bidden by honest last minute buyers.
For instance, put bids like EUR 290 or 399 and you’re almost sure that a naive buyer will put a higher bid at a few more Euros, like EUR 307 or 411.50 (whatever), preferably at the very last minute (sometimes by using a sniping service or software), while thinking that he will have been extremely clever. So, watch the bidding history of any bottle that makes sheep’s eyes at you... And if it’s hidden, beware! Frankly, which buyer aiming at winning a bottle on eBay would put stupid bids such as 290 or 399 Euros?
So, the forgers do have special nicknames that are almost only aimed at putting such bids on dodgy bottles, or even at buying/selling very cheap ‘buy-it-now’ items immediately after such bottles have been put on auction, doing that only to enhance their eBay profiles.
Of course, seeing all their tricks being exposed leads many fake sellers to adopt Private Feedback these days (hence making their comments and lists of transactions private) so that nobody can watch their dirty moves anymore. So, again remember rule #1: NEVER, ever buy from a seller whose feedback is hidden – or ‘Private’ in eBay language. On the other hand, Google's cache is very handy for checking old feedbacks even if a seller went private... Just google a seller's nickname + ebay and you'll find many cached information (but be quick! Caches do expire after a while...)

January 14, 2008

Baccusvr LAST MINUTE - PANIC! SOME FORGERS ARE CHANGING NAMES! (thanks for the info, Patrick)
<-- If you ever spot this small logo on eBay, please proceed with extreme caution!
Good, we now do have a Whisky Watchdogs Council! From now on it’s well-known – and true -Whisky Experts who’ll help us finding out about whether this or that bottling is either genuine, or dodgy, or a plain fake. These very serious people are nobody else than:
Dave Broom, the famous and very knowledgeable writer (and Malt Maniac!)
Sukhinder Singh, who handles The Whisky Exchange in London with much maestria and is a great bottler and collector as well.
Carsten Ehrlich, famous co-organiser of the Whisky fair Limburg, collector, retailer and bottler.
Believe me, if these guys think a bottle is a fake, it means that it IS a fake! What’s more, we may have one or two other genuine experts in whisky history and antique papers joining in the future.
So, don’t hesitate to send your pictures, links and comments to this special email address: waronfakewhiskies (at gmail.com).
Also, rather than downloading a 'suspicious' page in html and send the file to us, please favour making hardcopies (screen captures) of any Web page or parts of it (on PC, hold down the ‘Alt’ key and press ‘PrintScrn’ – on Mac press ‘Apple’ + ‘shift’ + ‘4’). On PC you can also use this handy freeware. It’s also wise to make such screen captures of Web pages that may well disappear, rather than taking the risk of seeing them, well, disappear whenever you need them later on. Anyway, we already have many cases in, and will publish them one at a time. Stay tuned!
IMPORTANT: When sending examples of forgeries on eBay or elsewhere to be published on these pages, please add pictures and/or links plus comments on why you think it's a fake bottle that you bought or spotted. "I bought a fake Macallan from the seller XXXX" just isn't enough to make it a clear case. Thank you! Oh, of course we won't disclose your name if you don't want us to!
ALSO IMPORTANT: If you have friends who don't understand English but who buy on eBay, it would be cool if you could tell them what happens and pass them the most vital pieces of information - thanks!
Bottle: Springbank 15yo 1964/1979 (45.7%, for Samaroli)
Item # 120184407093
Date of auction: 25.11.07, eBay - Price: EUR 469.00
Seller: docccc, Munich, Germany.
Problem: marks on the twist cap and missing ‘paint’ on it may prove that the empty bottle was probably refilled.
Pictures: left, part of the original pictures on eBay's page. Right: close views of the screw cap, taken by the buyer.
Comments: No need to ask the WWC (Whisky Watchdogs Council) for this one as the pictures speak for themselves. The seller had posted many pictures of various parts of the bottle on the eBay page but of course no close views of the cap. So, this bottle is probably genuine but the content probably isn't, and the whole is dodgy at best. Also, beware of private feedbacks, that should mean that the seller has something to hide. More enlightening cases later...
Bottle: Springbank 27yo 1967/1995 (46%, OB)
Item # 120181606124
Date of auction: 18.11.07, eBay - Price: EUR 427.99
Seller: docccc, Munich, Germany.
Problem: never existed with a twist cap.
Pictures: left, fake bottle sold on eBay, with twist cap.
Right: original bottles from the 'same' series.
Comments: the WWC (Whisky Watchdogs Council) says this never existed with a twist cap. Probably a mundane bottle that's been relabelled. We're sorry but with two obvious fakes spotted already, the eBay seller docccc a.k.a. 'Arnold J. Rimmer' goes onto the blacklist.
BONUS NOTE: as our friend Dominiek found out, this seller nicknamed 'docccc' has a good sense of humour! Indeed, it seems that he already corresponded with various buyers using both the names 'Thomas Schwarzenegger' and 'Arnold J. Rimmer'. The clever Dominiek suggested to switch first names and we got... Arnold Schwarzenegger and Thomas J. Rimmer! The latter is a character played by Chris Barrie in Red Dwarf, instantly recognisable by the permanent sneer on his lips according to wiki. Grin...


These fakers on eBay seem to be very, very clever people. Not only do they seem to sell more Macallans than the distillery itself, but they also know how to manage a true ‘brand portfolio’, just like any good old whisky company.

Indeed, all these nicknames are often ‘brands’, several being owned by one and only person, and most smartly, these clever people just raise new brands every once in a while, in case their ‘old’ brands get suspicious and hence stop selling.
Feedback How do they do that, you may ask? Well, it’s simple. As nobody will buy any 1954 Macallan from somebody having a feedback of only 5 or even 15 on eBay, they will simply organise fake sales between various nicknames, including one or several ‘new’ nicks/brands, until the ‘youngsters’ have accumulated 30 or 50 positive feedbacks and can be launched into the market so to speak. Sometimes it’s items that are more or less normally priced (so they’ll have to pay some fees to eBay) but sometimes it’s also ‘buy it now’ items, like a bottle of single malt for only EUR 1! Better be quick before any ‘normal’ eBayer buys it, eh! So, when checking a seller's feedback, please check who are the people who gave the feedback. If they are 'dodgy' people, you know what not to do...

January 13, 2008


Since we started our 'crusade' (I hate that word but hey, this is a crusade indeed) – and yes, that was only yesterday - against the disgusting pricks who keep selling faked bottles of whisky on eBay, we already received dozens of emails from people who bought such bottles.
As expected the same sellers - names and pseudonyms - appear here and there and we will definitely pillory them in the coming days! We’ll need a little time to edit all the pieces of evidence we got and are still getting but meanwhile, let’s just listen to the very worthy pieces of advice that two knowledgeable luminaries give us about old whiskies:
“Maybe this latest initiative will persuade collectors to stop believing in the impossible. As I've said (too) many times before, if it looks too good to be true it probably is. Sadly, the wisest manner in which to approach any of these bottlings is with deep suspicion. Ask questions and check provenance before buying. The information is often out there and there are many specialists who are willing to help. If the vendor is unwilling to enter into a discussion then walk away.” – Dave Broom
“Just assume they're all fakes unless someone can prove otherwise. Sad but true.” - Dr. Nicholas Morgan, Diageo
We also built a special page that you’ll find there, and we’re afraid that this page will keep growing for months, as it’s not only a bunch of Italians (and Germans, and even Americans it seems) who are trying to scr*w us on a daily basis, but also some of the hundreds of buyers who are now trying to get rid of their fake bottles while they can, sometimes unknowingly that is. So, please, don’t just check the sellers, check the bottles as well! Anyway, stay tuned, it’ll be crispy so to speak. Fake-O-Meter
We’ll even try to have a Fake-O-Meter, thanks to a few famous experts who'll help us flushing the frauds out! But back to 'normal' whisky for now...

January 12, 2008

Most true whisky lovers know that several Italian sellers on eBay are shameless forgers. Many old Macallans for, instance, are fakes, whether official bottlings or G&M bottlings. A pre-war Macallan for 200 or 300 Euros? Come on! Same with old Cadenheads dumpies, Laphroaigs 30 or 40yo, Ardbegs Very Old, Springbanks, Highland Parks, Taliskers... Fakes, fakes, fakes all over the place!
Now, I wouldn’t have imagined that one of these rotten sellers would go as far as forging an old bottle of Suntory. A bottle that I bought myself!
So, here’s the whole story. You’ll see, it’s really scary...

EPISODE 1 – Buying the old Suntory
On December 12, 2007, I spotted this marvellous old bottle of Rare Old Whisky by Suntory, bottled for the American forces, supposedly in 1945. That’s what the seller wrote, that is... Sure, the Italian tax stamp around the neck looked suspicious but both label and bottle seemed to be genuine. What’s more, it was quite cheap for such a piece of History and I knew that some GI’s were stationed in Italy at the end of the war, so, well, I bought the bottle from the Italian seller ‘caposiux’, for GBP 50. The price was quite low but I thought that maybe nobody was really interested in an old dusty Japanese bottle. Anyway, a few days later, I got the bottle, in perfect conditions. As I’m a very creative person, I immediately posted a positive comment on the seller’s page on eBay and just typed ‘perfect’. So far, so good...

A few days later, I wrote to my excellent friend Chris at Nonjatta (Mr. Japanese Whisky!) and told him about the bottle, asking him if he had details about the US Army and Japanese whisky. He came to the conclusion that it may well have been a bottle gathered by a GI while stationed in Japan, that he then brought to Italy in his bag while being transferred to another American military base.

Now, the claim made by the seller about the bottle being from 1945 was maybe a bit dodgy, said Chris, because ‘there was no "Made in Occupied Japan" mark. Between 1945 and 1952, Japan, which was not really considered a proper country but rather an occupied territory of the US, carried that mark on all/most/many of its products'. Anyway, the bottle still looked good to me, and after all, WWII or the Korean war didn’t really matter to me. Remember, only 50 Bristish pounds... Yes, but...

EPISODE 2 – The revelation
I decided to ask the seller whether he had any other information about the bottle and its origins or not. So, on January 7, 2008, I wrote exactly this to signore ‘caposiux’:

On the very same day, the very quick Mr. caposiux answered this:
Caposiux 2
Alright, no big deal, lotteries are quite common and maybe the ‘1945’ claim was just a wild guess. Nothing too serious, I thought, until I got this second, very mysterious message from eBay:
Uh! Another – different, I’m sure you noticed – answer to the same question, by another person whom I had never heard of before and with whom I had no eBay activity before. Strange, very strange to say the least. Maybe it was the same person? A person having such a poor memory, that he would have answered the same question twice? (albeit with a different version)... Bizarre... Anyway, maybe flea markets and lotteries are sort of the same thing in Italy? But I smelled a rat (who wouldn't?) and decided to browse eBay a little further. Believe me, that was to be no waisted time because here's what I was soon to find...
Yes, that’s right, the very same bottle (albeit EMPTY) was sold for only USD 6.99 by an American gentleman right on November 19, to that‘portokalo2023’ who had bizarrely sent a second answer to my request for more information. Obviously the very same person as ‘caposiux’ or a close friend! But wait, was it really the same bottle? Well, yes and no... Please have a closer look at these pictures...
two bottles Left, the empty bottle sold on November 19 to 'portokalo2023' by an American gentleman (who had it from his Dad who had brought it home from the war)...
Right, the bottle refilled by the buyer, with an added Italian tax stamp (carefully made dirty for good measure, or maybe soaked off an other old bottle) and sold to me by 'caposiux' right on December 12, that is to say way less than one month after the empty bottle left the good old USofA for Italy.

Needless to say that this obvious forgery says long about the sharp practices of these/this people named 'caposiux' and 'portokalo2023'! Would you buy anything else from him/them from now on? Or any Florentine old whisky? Of course not!
Now, this isn't it yet, as I also decided to spend a little more time browsing eBay to look for other possible empties bought by these fuckers... And I just couldn't believe my eyes...

EPISODE 3– Plain disgust
Yes, there, on evilBay, was the complete whisky forger's tool kit, all bought by 'portokalo2023' within a few weeks. For example, cool labels...
... like these beautiful Pulteneys (GBP 2.20, that's cheap)...
Or maybe an old Glendronach or a Tamdhu? You may make reservations right now...
... And I'm asking you, why not an old Glen Grant, or even a blend?
Or this Talisker 'Robert Watson' that a friend bought later on as a full bottle, unknowingly?
Oh, and of course an old Macallan 1937 by G&M... Even easier to make laser copies out of flat, unused or carefully kept in albums labels...
Gosh, and we almost forgot Highland Park! Of course, the St Patrick label is a must...
... Not to mention a few stars from Islay... Nice Lagavulin, eh!
Yeah, it's a genuine industry! Here are a few simple but old Macallans... (we told you, beware old Macs on eBay Italy...)
I can hear you complaining: no Glenfarclas? You bet?
Tasliker again? Your choice, OB or G&M? The old 8 is very nice...
Okay, enough labels... But what to do with all these labels? Right, you need bottles and, of course, whisky in case a buyer decides to open and taste his bottle. Pff, easy, just buy old blends! Old blends are cheap and their bottles are more or less the same as most single malts'. Like, say, this cheap old Match whisky, of which you'll buy as many bottles as you can...
Like one bottle on December 6 - 1 Euro only! Gosh, that's cheap indeed!...
And another one on December 28... (expensive, that one!)...
And a third one on December 29... (you never know... wait, no, it's the same, just a matter of time zone. Anyway, who would buy two bottles of this? A match collector?)
Of course, you may also buy some 'ready to fake' like this empty bottle of Grand Reserva with its original box. The problem is that it's much more expensive! 63.60 Euros... and 27 bids! Holy crow, are there so many fakers out there? Or is it our multiple-personality friend who put all the bids using his various pseudonyms?
And yet another empty Macallan. See, the people actually drink the stuff! (no wonder, it's quite good, yeah, yeah...)
Or a very old Irish with a beautiful label... Why not!

Now, imagine you just bough a beautiful old label like, say an old pre-war Macallan OB 'Handwritten' and you want to make shiny laser copies out of it to stick them on some cheap bottles of blend. Right, how will you handle the 'numbered label' issue? Indeed, it's too tricky to sell two bottles or more bearing the same numbers, isn't it? (although we already saw that happen). Anyway, all this is very easy, just buy an ancient stamp machine with 'rolling' numbers. 7,50 Euros, that's really nothing considering the beast...

What is it now? Didn't you have enough? What capsules? Ah, yes, the capsules to put onto the corks... It's true that they are usually destroyed when anybody opens a bottles. No big deal, you can buy 60 of them, all ancient, for less than 10 Euros! Plain pewter, at that...
An finally (I swear), you may well consider buying boxes to give more value to your forged bottles. Like a beautiful box for a 40yo Laphroaig... And cheap, at that!
... Or this (ha-ha-ha, the fucker bought the 30yo for more money than the 40! Grin...)
Okay, yes, we've had enough, I agree. No further comments needed I guess... Except that sure McTears (despite the dodgy moves like that Mutter Bowmore, or the recent Ben Wyvis) and whiskyauction.com are a bit more pricey than eBay, but at least you can bid safely there. Whereas eBay may well be plain rotten, and not only in Italy. Apologies to the honest eBay sellers - we know there are some - but frankly, this is too much. Because no, 'portokalo2023/caposiux' is NOT the only one...
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