Now, maybe I’m overexposed to certain media channels, or perhaps I’ve an overly sensitive bullshit reflex – I might even be just a bit touchy – but this has all gone too far. You see…
That’s right, folks: Fake News is a growing phenomenon. The internet is a wonderful platform of endless potential, but it turns out some people are manipulating it for personal gain!
Not only that, but apparently the unstoppable juggernaut of technological progression has overtaken the basic human need to question everything! Our tiny intellects can now only cope with whichever shiny headlines suit our own point of view or cause the most outrage. Critical thinking? Isn’t there an app for that?!
I‘ve realised in recent months that our beloved whisky industry is far from immune to the influence of Lazy Journalism and the mechanics of PR companies. Public opinion is manipulated to gain exposure and create reaction on blogs, forums and social media feeds all over the world. There’s so much nonsense that in the grand scheme of things is relevant to very few of us – and which could be discounted or contextualised with a minimal amount of research.
I refer, of course, to the now widely-held assumption that all old whisky is fake.
In late December 2018, the good folks at Rare Whisky 101 announced to the media that “£635,000 of fake whisky exposed, as new tests lift the lid on rare whisky market” via a press release which can be viewed in its entirety here.
Following this, the BBC, Forbes Magazine, The Guardian and dozens of other news outlets poured petrol on the fire while glossing over various key facts, leading to widespread shock, horror and disbelief.
So, since they couldn’t be arsed – and I’m bored of being asked about it – allow me to highlight a few pertinent issues ignored by the media.
First up, Potential for Sample Bias: a statistical error that causes a bias where one sampling group is selected more often than other groups included in the experiment. This may produce an inaccurate conclusion if the selection bias is not identified:
“From 55 bottles of Scotch whisky that were acquired by RW101 from different sources through the secondary market”
Put simply, the choice of the bottles that were tested was an arbitrary internal one. This leads to questions over the legitimacy of any outcome following testing.
Secondly, Press Interpretation:
“[Of the 55 bottles]… 21 were confirmed as either outright fakes or whiskies not distilled in the year declared. All malt whisky samples purporting to be from around 1900 or earlier were found to be fake.”
I would argue that, since there are clearly grey areas surrounding the sample group, the press is giving undue weight to these results. From my standpoint, this is causing an unnecessarily negative reflection of the secondary market.
Thankfully the Rare Whisky 101 Annual Report 2018 (an excellent resource, in my opinion) has some encouraging information by way of antidote.
Despite worries over fake whisky, the secondary market is on the up!
Based on the £635k figure quoted, if we assume that the bottles in the above sample group had an average individual value of £11,545 this translates to just 0.25% of the broader market, in which the biggest group of buyers (38%) only spend up to £99.
Interestingly, the report also states:
“We inspected two more Ardbeg 1960’s, 80 degrees proof bottles in the closing weeks of 2018. Both were fake. Over the past ten years at auction in the UK, there have been 32 bottles of these sold worth £43,249. There are different variants, but all should be treated with caution.”
Following on from that, it’s fair to say that – based on RW101’s own annual report – the vast majority (99.92% by my calculations) of all business is either unaffected or not worth reporting on.
So, it’s not all bad, folks!
As a whisky accumulator myself, I’ve never had any issues with fake whisky – my engagement with the secondary market has sparked a great interest in past production methods and examples of whiskies from yesteryear. As with any secondary market, though, there are pitfalls and occasional unscrupulous individuals or sellers. However, if you use a reputable auction house you should be fine.
Don’t forget, there’s a multitude of information online, and forums full of enthusiasts happy to talk about old and rare bottlings – it’s only a click away!
Happy Hunting, Loungers!
See you soon,
Premium Spirits Counterfeit Bottling Services Unlimited
Saltfields Industrial Estate