Tag Archives: Fake Whisky

Market Watch – Jan & Feb 2017

Macallan 18 Values Soften and Diageo Silent-Still Heavyweights Dip Amid a Mixed Start to the Year.

The first two months of 2017 have been something of a mixed bag for whisky values. There was always a certain air of inevitability around a re-trace of Macallan 18 year olds following 2016’s rapid gains. The vintage 18’s older Anniversary Malt siblings, however, continue to climb.

Following 2016’s emerging trend, the market seemingly continues to de-value the scarcity of silent stills – Values for both the Port Ellen Index and the Brora Index have fallen in February with significant volatility continuing, if not increasing across both indices. On a year to date basis, the Brora index is the worst performing of the key indices.

February was also the first month to see a year-on-year decline in the number of bottles hitting auction in the UK. February 2016 saw 5,360 bottles of Scotch sold at auction in the UK where February 2017 saw 4,980. Worthy of note is Scotch Whisky Auctions held their first 0% sellers commission auction back in Feb 2016, so there was a correspondingly huge increase in volumes from the Glasgow auctioneers.

Whereas year on year volumes declined by -7.09% it was a very different story for overall values. Again, comparing February 2016 to February 2017, the £ value hitting the open market increased by 31.06% from £1,131,512 to £1,482,991. This is to be fully expected noting the quantum shift in prices through 2016.

Index Performance.

The key Rare Whisky 101 indices ranked in order of performance for February and also year to date are –


The broadest measure of the market, the Apex1000 Index, highlights continued positivity with the holistic picture showing good upside… >2% gains have been experienced in both January and February. The Rare Malts Selection Index looks to be experiencing accelerating growth. The Rare Malts had a great 2016 with early 2017 results suggesting this cult collectible series has further to climb.

The Vintage 50 Index also highlights the growth in interest for significantly aged, vastly rare Scotch with it’s second highest monthly increase in over three years. This months result was only bettered by a 5.82% increase in September 2016.

Despite a softening of Macallan 18 values, the ‘M’ distillery still leads the pack with the vintage Anniversary Malts advancing. Looking at the indices side by side shows they’re almost on par again with the Macallan 18 index standing at 553.82 and the Macallan 25 index at 538.55.


Port Ellen and Brora show exceptional peaks and troughs across both indices. This suggests both are being governed by the collectors market. We typically see a spike as a collector is missing one or two releases from a full ‘set’, thereafter the market returns to normality. Despite the inherent spiky nature of these indices, the general trend does still remain positive.


To some degree it will also be important to see what Diageo do with pricing for the 2017 release of Port Ellen and Brora (if, indeed there is one). On the secondary market, the trend seems to be the more retail prices are inflated, the more volatility creeps into the market. 2016’s Port Ellen Special Release saw relative retail price stability; so we find ourselves asking if the retail ask price is increased this year, how far will/can it go before the normal dynamics of the market simply snap and consumers walk away?

Elsewhere in the market, it’s fantastic to see London-based Whisky.Auction manage to bust a substantial haul of fake whisky. For those interested and/or invested in the secondary market for rare whisky this issue will become ever more prolific with prices at all-time highs. If there’s one person producing fakes in the UK, there’s a terrible certainty more will be doing the same.

In summary, for the early part of the year, from a collecting perspective, It’s fascinating to see silent stills moving out of the limelight in favour of producing distilleries. Will this trend continue or has the market simply paused for breath, thus providing a good time to acquire any remaining bottles from silent stills? Rarity certainly suggests buying up remaining bottles from silent stills, but, in some cases is liquid quality letting the team down? … A polarising start to the year.

Rare Whisky Review – Feb. 2017

In our first rare whisky review of 2017, what we’re seeing is continuation.

That might sound a little dull… continuation suggests nothing’s changing, the status quo remains the same. To some degree that’s right, however, what we’re seeing in early 2017 is far from boring. Two things at this early stage of the year –

One – there looks to be little slowing in the increase in values for the right bottles.

Two – the number of fakes in the market is increasing.

Positive’s first.

Looking to Scotch Whisky Auctions, we saw a new record for the third release of Black Bowmore. £7,400 sealed the bidding at £400 ahead of Bonham’s previous December 2016 high. Looking back just under twelve months and the price was £5,150. Take it back to February 2014 and the price for this bottle was £3,500. Amazingly in 2008, these were selling for £1,400.

This buoyancy provided ample opportunity to re-run the Black Bowmore Index which we last published in August 2015; some eighteen months ago when the index stood at 294.25. That was impressive enough, however, we’ve seen a further 57.14% increase since then, with the index now standing at 462.39.


From a monetary perspective, the £ cost of the three first releases of Black Bowmore at the start of the index in 2008 was £4,520. That cost has now risen to £20,900. Last years release of the 50-year-old Black Bowmore completes an impressive five-bottle set. Values should remain buoyant for these in-demand rarities. Noting there can only ever be a maximum of 159 full sets of five bottles (159 bottles of the 50 were released), expect fireworks if all five ever make it to auction as a collection. The fourth Black Bowmore also set two record sales in February; Just-Whisky pipped Whisky-Online Auctions by a fractional £25 to take the highest price paid to £10,125.

Not wanting to leave White and Gold Bowmore’s out, Whisky-Online Auctions sold a bottle of each earlier this month for an equal £6,100 per bottle – both new record prices.

Clear some shelf space!

Assuming the full £16,000 retail price is paid for a 50-year-old Black Bowmore, all seven bottles of the-colours-of-Bowmore collection would cost £59,225. Bargain!!?

Another high value set/collection taking recent glory is Macallan’s Lalique decanter set. The sixth and final pillar, or decanter, was released last year. So, as with Black Bowmore, this particular collection of Macallan in Lalique is now consigned to history. For completeness, the list of the six pillars in Lalique are –

The Macallan in Lalique – Exceptional Oak Cask, 50 Years Old

The Macallan in Lalique – Natural Colour, 55 Years Old

The Macallan in Lalique – Finest Cut, 57 Years Old

The Macallan in Lalique – Curiously Small Stills, 60 Years Old

The Macallan in Lalique – Spiritual Home, 62 Years Old

The Macallan in Lalique – Peerless Spirit, 65 Years Old

Not content with selling the most expensive bottle of whisky sold at a UK auction last year, London-based Whisky.Auction now hold the title for selling the most expensive bottle of Macallan sold at auction in the UK. £41,000 was the magic number required to secure a second release Lalique decanter. Having been up close and personal to a few of these in my time, I might suggest that the postage would possibly cost as much as the bottle!

It’ll be fascinating to see what the full set of Lalique’s (pictured below) sell for on the 2nd of April at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. The set (in a Lalique made cabinet with some F&R mini’s for good luck) is the only one in the world released by the distillery, so with enough avid (should that be rabid!) Macallan collectors out there, I don’t think the HK$2,000,000 – HK$4,000,000 (£207k – £414k) estimate will be too much of a challenge. In fact, I’d be very surprised if the upper estimate isn’t burst by a significant margin.

My drinks cupboard looks nothing like this… nope, nothing at all… Sadly!

Bowmore and Macallan had great months, but elsewhere some exceptional bottles sold for correspondingly exceptional prices –

Recently, Springbank seem to be getting the attention they rightly deserve for rarer examples. A long discontinued bottle of 12-year-old 100 proof managed a phenomenal £1,300 at Scotch Whisky Auctions – exactly ten times the £130 price-tag it was selling for in 2008.

Just-Whisky took a bottle of Glenmorangie 30-year-old Oloroso through £1,000 for the first time when one sold for £1,030. As recently as June 2012 these could still be picked up at auction for sub £200.

Breaking £1000 for the first time.

Moving onto the second issue, we’re still seeing an increase in fakes on the market. Our view is still very clear on this, as values remain so buoyant, we will see an increase in the number of fakes.

We were speaking to fellow fake-haters, Scotch Whisky Auctions, today as some fakes had slipped through their (very tight to be fair) fake-net. The two blue label Macallan 30’s were a point of discussion as one was 100% fake, the other we’re 99% sure is fake (that’s sometimes the issue with imagery, we’d need to see the bottle to be 100% sure).

Challenges ahead for the market as fakes increase.

There was also a really good (by that I mean hard to spot) fake Macallan 1979 Gran Reserva as well. Between the blue label 30 and the Gran Reserva’s (we’ve seen ALL vintages of these faked) these are among the most faked, high risk bottles out there… and they’re not cheap so we’re not expecting this flow of fakes to be stemmed anytime soon.

It’s great to see that Scotch Whisky Auctions are taking an even tougher stance on fakes and are now barring sellers who are repeat and deliberate offenders. Clearly Scotch Whisky Auctions have done/are doing the right thing for their buyers too by refunding payments and taking bottles back.

The interesting thing is that all these bottles sold for their current market value, so there’s a real education piece required to help buyers understand how to spot these things. But there-in lies the conundrum – if everyone knows how to spot fakes, fakers will correct these errors and get better.

That said, we’ll be doing a lot more on this with many others later in the year. More on that later.

In summary, fakes aside, the start to 2017 looks positive. We’re certainly not expecting a mirror image of the gains seen in 2016 but demand still seems to be vastly more than supply can provide for. Early days yet and there’s still plenty of time for the arrows to start pointing down but we’re not seeing significant stress in the market for now. Cautious optimism is the phrase of the month here.


Andy and David.


Bowmore imagery courtesy of Whisky-Online Auctions other than the 50 yr old.

Macallan Lalique set image courtesy of Macallan.

Glenmorangie image courtesy of Just-Whisky.

Blue label Macallan 30’s image courtesy of Scotch Whisky Auctions.

Fake Macallan Gran Reserva 18 Year Old – What’s in the Bottle?

Some time ago we posted up some images of a fake bottle of Macallan 18 year old Gran Reserva.

Horrible thing!
Horrible thing!

The bottle had been auctioned at Perth based Whiskyauctioneer.com (WA). As soon as the auction-house realised the bottle was fake they cancelled the sale and all was good in the world of rare whisky again. The right thing was done by a responsible auctioneer who take fakes very seriously.

The big problem is, much as all reputable auctioneers would like to destroy the bottle and remove it from the market, legally, they cannot. The offending item has to be returned to the owner who can choose whatever they wish to do with it. Probably list it on ebay in some cases, in others something far more interesting.

On this particular occasion the owner did something brilliant. They agreed the bottle could be opened and the contents, at least to some degree, analysed.

Thanks to Whiskyauctioneer.com we managed to obtain a 20ml sample from the full bottle. The team at WA described the contents upon nosing the full, open bottle as “a bit funky”. A descriptor we would wholeheartedly agree with.

Without sending the sample for a pile of chemistry doing, we too, assessed it organoleptically and measured the alcohol content with our faithful portable alcohol meter… affectionatley known as ‘Scooshie’.

Even upon the full bottle being opened, you could smell far more grape than grain in the bottle.

After nosing the sample in detail we came to the conclusion this was indeed some sort of whisky (most likely a cheap blend) diluted with cheap, dark sherry to give a very good colour match. There was clearly some ‘bite’ and a far higher level of alcohol than simply sherry on its own. Just imagine the damage these things could do to a brand if it’s not spotted as a fake and the gets consumed in the (false) knowledge that this is the real thing?

Scooshie confirmed what we thought when she told us (accurate to within +/- 0.2% ABV) the liquid was 34.77%.

Fake Macallan 1979 Gran Reserva Contents

So if you have a massively burning desire to explore what cheap supermarket, own brand, bottom shelf, blended Scotch tastes like when mixed with cheap dark sherry… go on ebay and buy a bottle of Macallan Gran Reserva!

Fake Macallan Gran Reserva (1979 18 Year Old)

Fake 1979 18 year old Macallan Gran Reserva Alert.

Awful as they are, fake bottles of high quality/valuable Scotch whisky are destined to become more prolific as supply on the open market increases… and this one’s a classic – it’s Macallan and it’s relatively high value…. The perfect forgers target.

The following link to the recent http://www.whiskyauctioneer.com sale is a stand-out example of a fake Macallan 18 year old Gran Reserva – http://www.whiskyauctioneer.com/lot/004840/macallan-1979-gran-reserva-18-year-old

Fake Macallan Gran Reserva 1979 18 Year Old in all its glory
Fake Macallan Gran Reserva 1979 18 Year Old in all its glory

While there’s no disputing this one’s fake, they’re still quite difficult to pick out unless there’s a genuine bottle available for comparison. So here’s the main and most visibly instant reasons why this one’s a fugazi –

– The gold border on the label is far too wide, the genuine label has a far finer border.
– The gold border (and other detailing) is poorly printed ‘gold’ rather than the bright bronze-powder gold which Macallan used. As with the border, the gold detailing etc on the fake has a really dull lustre to it whereas a genuine bottle is bright. Apparently the genuine labels were a real challenge to produce because of the specialised type of granulated bronze powder paint used.
– The texture of the fake label is too flat (and too white). The genuine article has a laid-paper label where you can pick up clear vertical ribbing/ridges in the high quality paper used.
– The general colours aren’t as vibrant as with an original bottle. The reds in particular are ‘flatter’ than a genuine bottle.
– The rear label has the same issues (gold border is all wrong) and Easter Elchies House looks almost olive green on the fake where it should be cream on an original.

Accepting photo’s can be challenging from many perspectives, all told, this one just looks wrong, that’s what drew my attention to it.

What’s in it? Probably 10 or 12 year old Macallan… maybe much worse! Who knows… Definitely NOT almost a thousand pounds worth of one of the best Macallans ever released, that’s a certainty.

I’ve recently benefited from having physically held one of these fakes alongside the genuine article and the contrast is stark by comparison. That also means this occurrence is not simply a rouge bottle, nor are these fakes solely isolated to the 1979 vintage, other vintages of Gran Reserva are affected too (the one I examined recently was a 1980 vintage). This bottle sold for £960 which is more or less current open market value – collectors and drinkers are being duped by these awful things.

I spoke to the auctioneer about this and (being wholly supportive in trying to combat fakes) they immediately agreed to cancel the deal and refund the buyer. I do suspect the bottle will be sent back to the vendor rather than being destroyed, hence trying to raise awareness in spotting the duds. I only hope the vendor destroys it and takes another fake out of the market.

Here are some detailed shots of real bottles from a reference perspective.

Macallan Gran Reserva

MACALLAN Gran Reserva 1979_label_ 9

MACALLAN Gran Reserva 1979_label_ 11

Gran Reserva Full Size

Don’t be duped… Fight those fakes.

Rare Whisky and Sediment.

What is the sediment, haze & precipitate material in very old, sherry matured whiskies and is it bad for you?


David – With very old whisky oxalic acid has been leached out of the casks over an extended time period and this is particularly true when Spanish Oak Sherry casks are used and may thus cause a white crystalline precipitate to occur.

The science is well understood and can be explained that during the maturation period the oxalate ion precipitates out with calcium to form calcium oxalate (crystal deposits).   With the addition of any calcium ions during addition of reduction water (to reduce the whisky ABV from natural cask strength to bottle strength) and any filtration and any other increase in pH that can occur during finishing and bottling it can take up to a year for the calcium oxalate to precipitate.

The complex nature of calcium oxalate instability that leads to precipitation is dependent on the temperature and alcohol concentration of the whisky.  Since stable environmental conditions may only occur once the whisky is bottled and released commercially it can be hard to predict how these products will behave.  And indeed, it may take months, if not years, for the crystal agglomerations to reach a size to be seen by the naked human eye.

Oxal Img 2

The industry is well aware that many very old, sherry matured in origin single malts, can throw a crystalline precipitate of calcium oxalate.  Many examples of this exist with Macallan Anniversary 25 years old, Macallan 30 years old, Dalmore 40 year olds, G&M vintage whiskies from the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s etc.  It’s a very common occurrence and provides proof of the natural sherry matured, gently filtered long aged nature of the resulting product.

Customers must realise that we are dealing with a traditional product, made from natural ingredients, from which the alcohol produced is distilled and then filled to oak casks without any intervention that would detract from the final product quality.

Aged Scotch whisky may therefore be compared with fine port and some of France’s world famous clarets where, for example, significant precipitation occurs.  Whisky may be decanted by the end user as one would a fine port or wine.

Ingestion of the calcium oxalate crystals would not pose any toxicity problems as calcium oxalate is found in many foods and drinks in far higher concentrations typically 1-10 mg/litre for whisky and 1400 mg/litre in chocolate and 330 mg/l in tea.

Andy – So that’s the why and how done; but does this sediment serve any other use?

It actually does.

With older bottles of heavily sherried whisky I always look for sediment to be present. While not definitive, as we’re dealing with many variables around the liquid and also how the bottle’s been stored, the presence of sediment is a good indication that the whisky is genuine…. Or at least it’s pretty old sherried stuff.

When I’m appraising a collection of older bottles, if I don’t see the ‘sludge-of-certainty’ it rings alarm bells and at least warrants digging a bit more into the provenance of the bottle.

Oxal Img 3