Bourbon Collecting Is On the Rise — So Are Counterfeit Bottles

The influx of novice hobbyists in the past few years may be more likely to fall for scams.

The social disruptions caused by COVID-19 led many people to pick up pandemic hobbies. Some thought a bit outside of the box, like trying to make the perfect bagel or recreating airplane meals, but others stuck to the more tried and true: baking sourdough bread and collecting booze.

This rapid influx of new hobbyists, however, has also had its own ramifications, with increased demand can come higher prices and shortages. And in the case of whiskey, The New York Times found that counterfeit bourbon — already a growing problem before — has gotten even worse over the past couple of years.

Bourbon poured from a decanter into a glass, with another decanted in the background
Getty Images

Counterfeit booze — be it wine, whiskey, or whatever — is nothing new. In fact, in 2018, a lab determined that over a third of the rare Scotch they tested was fake. In the past, fake bourbon has been less of a concern since Scotch commanded higher prices, but more recently, a surge in the rare bourbon market is also likely feeding an increase in fraud. And as the Times explains, the pandemic has created a perfect storm of more novice collectors dealing with scammers who may have more time on their hands and be in more dire financial situations. Additionally, since selling bourbon on the secondary market is largely illegal in the U.S., victims may not want to come forward.

"Part of the problem is the culture I see around bourbon, where it is about bragging rights and being able to Instagram a bottle you just bought," Adam Herz — an expert in counterfeit bottles — told the paper. "Most people I see ending up with fakes are partly to blame themselves. Any good con man knows how to take advantage of someone's greed."

Things have been so bad that last May, America's oldest wine shop got called out for unwittingly selling a $1,000 bottle of bourbon believed to be a fake. Then, in September, Buffalo Trace — maker of that bottle, as well as other coveted bourbon brands like Van Winkle, Blanton's, and Double Eagle — issued a blanket statement warning customers not to fall victim to "an increasing number" of fraudulent sellers on the internet and social media.

The moral is, if you're buying rare bourbon, be careful out there. And make sure you're doing at least a little bit of homework. Herz added, when it comes to counterfeiters, "Most people are lazy and impatient."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles