Buffalo Trace Warns Buyers of Fraudulent Whiskey Being Sold Online
From pricy Scotches to rare Japanese single malts to coveted American bourbons, the global whiskey market is probably hotter than it's ever been. But though not everyone can fork out nearly $2 million for a world record-sized 311-liter bottle of 32-year-old Macallan, even dram lovers on more modest budgets can fall victim to scam artists looking to take advantage of the booming industry.
This week, Kentucky's Buffalo Trace Distillery issued a public announcement warning customers not to fall victim to "an increasing number" of fraudulent sellers on the internet and social media. The company — which owns about 20 brands including their eponymous Buffalo Trace and the famed Van Winkle bourbons — explains that "several" people have contacted them about incidents where they have paid for whiskey online and received nothing in return or — even more frustratingly, been sent "empty bourbon bottles, many of which were counterfeit and included plastic toppers on the bottle instead of the metal toppers used on legitimate bottles."
"We've had fans from across the U.S. contact us to tell us they've been duped. We've taken legal action to have the sites shut down and also sent notices to the social media companies asking them to take action, but unfortunately the situation persists," Mary Tortorice, general counsel for Buffalo Trace's parent company, Sazerac, said in the announcement. "In all but six states plus the district of Columbia, it is illegal to ship alcohol directly to consumers… One of the tip offs is if the website will process your order with shipment to your state, if you are located in one of the 44 states where shipping alcohol directly to your home is illegal. Another red flag is if the website is located in another country, as the majority of the scams we have seen have been located overseas."
For the record, the six states that allow direct shipment of spirits are Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, as well as the District of Columbia. And to clarify, some other states allow the direct shipment of other alcoholic beverages like wine and beer, but not spirits. (Also worth noting, overall, efforts continue to be made to increase the number of states that allow direct alcohol shipments.)
Included in the warning, Buffalo Trace also emphasized that the distillery doesn't sell its whiskies online and to vet any company that says they do "very carefully." "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is," Tortorice added, referencing the old adage.
Still, if you do run into a problem, Buffalo Trace offers the following suggestion: "If you feel you have been duped, you can report the site to the Better Business Bureau, your State Attorneys General office, and contact your credit card company about its fraud protection policies." And, of course, feel free to drown your sorrows in some legitimately purchased whiskey.