Here’s a hard lesson in whisky buyer wariness: sometimes spending ten grand on a single glass of whisky is a bad idea after all. I guess even the best experts can be fooled.
The $10,000 pour of Macallan from the 1800s served in a Swiss hotel this summer is a fake, an investigation has confirmed.
This all began with another news story: in July Chinese multi-millionaire and popular writer Zhang Wei paid the equivalent of US$10,277 for a glass of Macallan single malt scotch whisky dated 1878. For that, he got a single dram of the 139-year-old whisky while on vacation at a luxury hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
The bottle’s origin doesn’t appear to have been disclosed, but it is strikingly similar to bottles that went up for auction two decades ago, many of which were deemed fakes (or at least filled with fake whisky). Macallan themselves bought many of these bottles at auction at the time— 100 or so for research purposes—proving that even the best can be tricked sometimes.
Scotchwhisky.com originally broke elements of the story in August. At the time Both Macallan and the Waldhaus were unsure if the bottle and whisky were in fact fakes, but both had already pulled the questionable bottles from displays and sales. The Waldhaus said it would be having the bottle examined:
“Meanwhile, Waldhaus hotel manager Sandro Bernasconi has contacted a testing facility in Scotland to establish whether the 1878 Macallan bottle is a fake, with analysis likely to cover the cork, bottle, label and whisky. Results are expected to take several weeks, if not months.”
Well, it’s months later, and it seems the bottle was in fact a fake.
“Hotel and bar manager Sandro Bernasconi enlisted consultant Rare Whisky 101 to arrange the tests,” said Scotchwhisky.com in a post this week, “which involved carbon dating at the University of Oxford, and laboratory tests on the composition of the liquid at Tatlock and Thomson, providers of scientific services to the wine and spirits industry.”
The test showed that the whisky inside was indeed vintage, but was a blended scotch from the 1970s (Macallan is a single malt).
Wei was refunded after the hotel received the results. Bernasconi flew to Asia to tell Zhang. “I gave him the money back,’ Bernasconi told Scotchwhisky.com. “That’s the only right thing to do. He wasn’t angry with us – he was disappointed. But he said it was a great evening and a great experience in our hotel, whatever the test results.”
As whisky in general has soared in popularity over the last decade, fakes scandals have become more frequent (just ask the Van Winkles about bourbon theft).