Buyer beware: fake Pappy Van Winkle is flooding the market

Pappy Van Winkle, one of the most sought after whiskies
Pappy Van Winkle, one of the most sought after whiskies

Pricey limited edition booze has become a status symbol similar to a Rolex or sports car, so naturally fakes are abundant.

Ebay banned the listing of any bottles of alcohol back in 2012 in a effort to combat a growing black market in fake limited edition whiskies.

However, lately a spate of empty rare booze bottles — from pricey bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle to ryes like the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection — have been popping up on Ebay. And they’re seeing astronomical prices.

According to Esquire, shysters — driven by a growing interest in high-end whisky — are procuring empty bottles, filling them with lower-end booze and trying to pass them off as the real thing. They are sold for well over market price on invitation-only sites like BottleSpot, Facebook groups or even Craigslist.

Esquire reports, that Adam Herz — a Hollywood screenwriter and producer most famous for American Pie and co-founder of L.A. Whisk(e)y Society, a private whiskey club — decided to get to the bottom of this diabolical ploy by tracking secondary market whisky sales.

Herz quickly noticed that the same three or four bidders were snatching up all the Pappy empties. Herz copied down the unique, hand-numbered codes on those labels and compared them to the black-market Facebook groups’ bottles for sale.

“Five minutes. That’s how long it took me to find the first fake,” he says.

He discovered that some shady sellers even went so far as to manually alter the numbers by a digit to further deceive potential buyers. Another tactic that appears to be in play is obtaining foil bottle coverings on Amazon and torching the covering with a hairdryer to pass of a refilled bottle as new.

So the ultimate advice for how to stop the chain of forgery is pretty simple: break the mold and smash the bottle of specialty liquor upon finishing. Cheers to that!