News and announcements from the Whisky Magazine team
New member
Posts: 64
Joined: Fri Nov 08, 2002 2:01 am


Postby Kate » Mon May 17, 2004 2:35 pm

After months of speculation, The Macallan has announced that some of it’s antique whisky is fake. Dominic Roskrow looks at the implications

News that some bottles of antique whisky held by The Macallan have proved to be forgeries is sending shockwaves through the whisky industry.

After extensive and lengthy tests the Macallan has reported that so far 11 bottles in its antique whisky collection have been identified as fakes. In all about 100 bottles could be affected but tests on the others are still to be carried out.

The announcement that some of the company’s oldest whisky is a forgery ends more than 18 months of speculation which was prompted originally by an article in Whisky Magazine written by Dave Broom.

In the original article he raised the issue of forgeries across the whole industry and argued that the large number of very old whisky bottles in perfect condition raised suspicions. Tests were carried out by the Macallan to ascertain that the bottles used and the paper on them were genuine. But many continued to question whether it followed that the liquid inside them was genuine.

Now it has been proved categorically that at least in the case of some bottles the whisky is far younger – in some cases just 10 years old.

Reacting to the discovery, the director of fine and rare whiskies for The Macallan, David Cox, said that he was very disappointed and pointed out that the discovery was symptomatic of a general industry problem.

“These fakes show what a difficult issue this is for the whole industry,” he says. “the bottles in question were bought after 2000, some from auction and some from private collectors. The people involved with buying them had no reason to think that they were forgeries or to suspect any wrongdoing.

“I decided to do tests to make sure that the bottles and paper used for the labels was genuine but it was only when the issue of fakes was raised by Dave Broom that there was any suggestion that something was amiss.

“When the tests on the bottles and paper proved that they were genuine we assumed that they were genuine because the bottles were sealed. That has now proved not to be the case.”

There was no suggestion of any wrongdoing at the Macallan, he said, and it was unlikely that there would be any internal repercussions.

“When this whisky was bought it was bought in good faith and at the time there was no reason to be suspicious about them.”
Research by Dave Broom and others suggests that the fake bottles originated in Italy and were created some 10 years ago. Their route to the Macallan via reputable dealers and through auction will raise question marks – not least of which is how it is possible for so many experts to be so completely duped.

More seriously for the future of the collecting industry within whisky, how can anyone trust the bottles they have already purchased and how can they act to prevent it happening again?
“This has to be seen as a wake up call to the whole industry,” says Dave Broom. “I am deeply sorry that this has happened, particularly to a company like Macallan for whom I have a lot of respect.

“But some serious questions have to be asked. I hate to say ‘we told you so’ but it’s not as if we didn’t warn about this. There seem to be some people in the whisky industry who believe that things don’t happen like this because whisky’s too nice. Well it does happen and we all have to beware of it.

“As far as this particular case is concerned it should have been dealt with much sooner. I am absolutely amazed that Macallan went ahead with their replica range knowing that this might happen.

The Macallan stresses that the fake issue is confined to the 100 antique bottles it purchased in a period between 2000 and 2002, and has nothing what to do with its core bottlings or its Fine and Rare bottlings, which are all derived from maturing cask at the distillery, or from stock ‘of known and proven provenance.’

“As a result of these tests from now on no antique bottles from the antique collection held at the distillery will be made available for sale,” says David Cox.

“For anyone who has bought such antique bottles in the belief, like us, that the whisky inside was genuine and are concerned about their purchases, we would be more than happy to supply the contact name and address of the laboratory which has completed the analytical work for ourselves. We are all concerned, for the good name of the industry, that such matters are cleared up for everyone’s sake.”

Now that the issue is finally out in the open there remain many unanswered questions and over the coming weeks there is likely to be a great deal of soul-searching over the forgery issue and the way it has been handled. It will be raised as a matter of urgency with the Scotch Whisky Association.

The one slice of good news about all of this so far is that the number of similar bottles has reduced significantly in recent months, suggesting that now the scam is in the open the perpetrators have retreated in to the background again.
But the advice would seem that collectors should be very careful when buying whisky.

“This proves absolutely that it is a matter of caveas emptor – let the buyer beware says Dave Broom. “Potential purchases need to find out everything they can before they part with their money. Unless you’re sure of the history and provenance of the bottle, don’t buy it.”


DAVE BROOM: “I am very sorry that this has happened but it is a wake up call. There have been some people that have at best been incredibly naïve here. You have to ask how this has happened. It’s not as if the Macallan weren’t warned and over the last year the company has been in a culture of denial to the point that it has given a hard time to anyone who has questioned it. Nobody should feel any joy that the cynics have been vindicated but steps have to be taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

DAVID COX: “We are of course bitterly disappointed that it has come to this though I am not totally surprised. It has repercussions across the whole industry. If we can sufficient evidence against the perpetrators then we would consider coming down hard with criminal proceedings. But to do that and get enough evidence both for Scottish and Italian law I suspect will be very difficult indeed.”

MICHAEL JACKSON: “Dave Broom in particular should be congratulated for his work in this area. I suppose the best that can be said is that it is a compliment to the world of quality whisky that people have faked it. After all you don’t fake pictures of galloping elephants on the wall of Boots do you?”
Last edited by Kate on Thu Jun 03, 2004 1:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Double Gold Member
Posts: 1254
Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2001 2:01 am

Postby Iain » Mon May 17, 2004 3:17 pm

David Cox said:

“When the tests on the bottles and paper proved that they were genuine we assumed that they were genuine because the bottles were sealed. That has now proved not to be the case.”

This is disingenuous.

It is unhelpful to pretend that only the whisky in the bottles was not what it seemed. There are serious doubts as to the authenticity of the packaging of many of the "vintage" Macallan bottles. Several people expressed those doubts on this forum and elsewhere (and in correspondence with Mac) at the end of 2002/beginning of 2003, BEFORE most of the "vintage" whisky auctions began.

If the paper tests "proved" the labels were authentic, why would not and will not Mr Cox release the results?

Were the McWilliam bottles tested? In particular, what about the suspicious "shoulder flashes" with what appear to be misleading dates printed on them?

Were tests actually done, or were the bottles simply "nodded through" by a consultant with absolutely no knowledge of the history of whisky packaging?

ps: David Cox says: “This proves absolutely that it is a matter of caveas emptor – let the buyer beware says David Cox. “Potential purchases need to find out everything they can before they part with their money. Unless you’re sure of the history and provenance of the bottle, don’t buy it.”

Well, it's a bit late saying that now, after flogging all those "vintage" bottles and replicants, some of which (it seems) may not be what they appear to be. Couldn't Mac have said that at the start, when concerned folks asked them to do so?

What a ringing endorsement for Macallan values :shock:

Rudolph Hucker
Silver Member
Posts: 258
Joined: Mon Sep 09, 2002 1:01 am

Collectors market etc

Postby Rudolph Hucker » Mon May 17, 2004 7:05 pm

It would seem that the buyers who have to be aware are those that bought from The Macallan - an organisation whose reputation was once so sound that no-one would have thought twice about buying their products.

How Times change!

Still no cheers today


Double Gold Member
Posts: 1254
Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2001 2:01 am

Postby Iain » Wed May 19, 2004 10:34 pm

From Press and Journal, 17 May ... PK=9979796


"[David Cox]... confirmed the collection would continue to be displayed at the distillery, as both the bottles and labels are genuine."

How does he know that?

Which bottles and which labels were tested?

If only Mac would publish their expert report on the McWilliam labels and the highly peculiar shoulder flashes!

After all, what is there to hide? :cry:

Rudolph Hucker
Silver Member
Posts: 258
Joined: Mon Sep 09, 2002 1:01 am


Postby Rudolph Hucker » Thu May 20, 2004 9:20 am

Have I got this right?

David Cox, Director Rare and Collectibles at The Macallan states that they will continue to exhibit the ' Fake ' Macallans?

Can that really be true?

I am sure that Mr Cox must be feeling a bit shell-shocked by the outcome of this whole affair, but can he - and his bosses - be thinking clearly if this is an accurate report?

It is known that some of the whisky is fake. It is suspected by some people that the bottles and labels are fake. ( Clearly, no-one, including Mr Cox, can be certain one way or the other.)

So The Macallan will continue to exhibit what may be fake bottles, with what may be fake labels, containing what may be fake whisky - but presumably without that description.

What on earth for? Have they not already done enough damage to this once well-respected brand? What kind of image do they think they are creating? If they continue to exhibit the whisky WITHOUT a clear cautionary note, are they not misleading people who, not aware of this sorry saga, will assume that everything is genuine? Are they not then behaving exactly like those who they claim have commited fraud against them?

Is it not time for the chief executive of the company which produces The Macallan to get involved, and to take the action needed to stop even more damage being done?

So many questions - so few answers ! :cry:


Silver Member
Posts: 473
Joined: Fri Nov 24, 2000 2:01 am

Postby lexkraai » Thu May 20, 2004 2:31 pm

So Macallan claims that the bottles and labels are genuine. The only thing we have to back up this claim is Macallan's word. That's the word of a company that has repeatedly claimed its 19th century bottles are genuine and has auctioned some of them off. Now these Oxford test results show that at least some of the 19th century bottles still at the distillery are fakes. Some of the auctioned bottles may also very well be fakes, but they weren't tested. And we still have to believe this same company when they claim the bottles and labels are real?

Isn't it time for Macallan to show they're honest? And release the test report on the bottles and labels? So their customers can judge for themselves how much evidence there really is for the bottles and labels being real? Do they really not see how much damage they continue to inflict on what's left of their reputation by continuing to keep all the evidence (test reports, photos, warehouse records) they claim to have secret?

My offer of making space in "Celtic Spirit" for the publication of all this evidence still stands.

Cheers, Lex

Double Gold Member
Posts: 1254
Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2001 2:01 am

Postby Iain » Tue May 25, 2004 8:37 pm

From the london Times, 22 May

Rum whisky
By Martin Waller

"MACALLAN, the whisky distiller, four years ago started to assemble an impressive collection of about 100 antique bottles of whisky, acquired from a variety of sources and auctions, a number from Italy.
Some dated back as far as 1841. Macallan brought in an expert in ceramics and a forensic historian to authenticate the bottles and labels.

Then they started to test the contents, using carbon dating. They have now tested 11 bottles and every one proved to have been refilled with a rather more recent blend.

The question now is what to do with them. The bottles are authentic but the contents aren’t and the whole affair casts a question over the booming trade in “vintage” drink.

David Cox, director of fine and rare whisky at Macallan, says: “We’ve uncovered a scam here. There’s certainly a lot of this in the wine trade. I’m not sure it gets quite the publicity it should.”


What a cheek! MACALLAN has uncovered a scam?

It was made public in Whisky Magazine in 2002 and reported elsewhere, over a period of nearly 2 years.

But Mac wouldn't take action nor halt their on-line auction.

More spin than Muralitharan. :roll:

Deactivated Member

So what was those replicas based on ?

Postby Deactivated Member » Wed May 26, 2004 9:25 pm

I still wonder what the replicas sold by macallan were based on-a 1980-ies blend ?


Martin B

Triple Gold Member
Posts: 2724
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 2:01 am

Postby Admiral » Thu May 27, 2004 4:14 am

A rather apt comparison there, Iain, given that Murali's action is crooked! :wink:

Rudolph Hucker
Silver Member
Posts: 258
Joined: Mon Sep 09, 2002 1:01 am

collectors etc

Postby Rudolph Hucker » Thu May 27, 2004 11:35 am

The March 2004 issue of Brand & Product Protection carries several articles on the protection of wines and spirits brands.

I thought the following extracts might be relevant to the current Macallan situation:

A study in India showed that 63% of Scotch Whisky sampled was certain localities after purchasing a bottle of branded genuine Scotch, consuming it, and then returning the empty bottle to the store where it was originally purchased it is possible to get back half the money originally paid. (NOW WHY WOULD THAT BE?)

Bets seller Smirnoff was being imported into the Uk from Ireland, and was discovered to be fake product contained in genuine refilled bottles. (AT LEAST THE BOTTLES WERE GENUINE)

There are also a number of misleadingly labelled brands of Scotch Whisky...... that have circulated in the UK, including Glen Perth, Scottish Gold, Foreman, Royal crown, Scottish Piper, Scottish Swordsman,Alliance,Great Bargee, Highland Famous Stag, Grouse Benson and Scottish Chieftan. Many are apparently just flavoured neutral spirits

Currently, the industry standard for verification of Scotch Whisky is through laboratory-based analysis - a process that can take up to two weeks. (OBVIOUSLY IN THE CASE OF THE MACALLAN THIS PERIOD WAS SLIGHTLY STRETCHED TO ABOUT 9 MONTHS BEFORE THEY UNCOVERED THE COUNTERFEITING THEY WERE WARNED ABOUT OVER A YEAR AGO!!!!)

It is increasingly being advocated on both sides of the Atlantic that manufacturers must be seen to have taken all reasonable measures to deter and detect product tampering and counterfeiting ( AS MACALLAN CLEARLY MUST HAVE DONE BEFORE THE FAKES WERE OFFERED FOR SALE)

'Brand Death' as a consequence of fake...product is the nightmare scenario that brand owners in this industry must live with on a daily basis.


According to the article Highland Distillers are ' one of the major brand owners that have brand protection departments that operate internationally, gleaning intelligence from a variety of sources including the company's own sales and distribution personnel as well as external specialist private investigators, and carrying out their own investigations, raids and other types of operations usually with relevant domestic and foreign law enforcement entities, as well as their own in-house lawyers and external law firms ' ( AND THEY ALL FAILED TO DETECT A SCAM WHICH MAY HAVE RESULTED IN SOME PEOPLE PAYING THOUSANDS OF POUNDS FOR BOTTLES CONTAINING TEN YEARS OLD WHISKY)



New member
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 6:06 pm

Postby maltnutter » Tue Jun 29, 2004 5:54 pm

Ultimately, a company like Macallan MUST be sure that what it is presenting to the world is genuine. We love whiskies because they are one of the more genuine things in our lives - malt, yeast and water (and maybe a drop of caramel!) - thats all it is, nothing hidden, you get what it says on the tin.

I can't help thinking the temptation of going along with the samples to create a good story was just too much, rather than take genuine care in checking the bottles out.

Whisky companies make enough money that there is no excuse for turning a blind eye.

Temptation, avarice, I think these have been written about before by a few people over the years :evil:

Triple Gold Member
Posts: 2724
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 2:01 am

Postby Admiral » Thu Jul 01, 2004 12:11 pm

The following from the 5th Edition of Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion is hilarious:

"The 19th century bottles that were opened to act as models for these replicas contained whiskies that, in some respects, tasted hauntingly reminiscent of today's Macallan (albeit, surprisingly, more delicate)."

Hmmm...... :D


Return to “Whisky News”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest