Fakes, Frauds & Counterfeits
Times have really gotten tough around the world. I can’t be sure if it is because there are more people out there that are more desperate than ever before to survive because the economy of the world has taken a nose dive, or if it is because of social media and these instances are just reported more. Who knows, maybe we have been consuming fake Olive Oil from Italy a lot longer than the 60 Minutes report about the Agromafia (a sect of the Italian Mafia that fakes foo). See http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/tag/60-minutes-agromafia-segment for the full story.
Unfortunately it does not end there. The grated cheese we find in the supermarket at times can contain wood pulp. They say it is not harmful, but then why is it not listed in the ingredients? Then again it would not matter, if we are too lazy to grate our own cheese (and save money), who would bother to read the ingredients even if there is an Italian flag and name that ends in a vowel? There is one major supermarket chain which is made here in the USA which uses and Italian flag as part of the logo. There is nothing Italian about it, except maybe the fact that the original product was once made in Italy. But make no mistake, this American product bares no resemblance to the Italian original. Or does it? Who knows in today’s world with so much fake and fraudulent products out there.
Then we have the clever marketers out there who invent a new product like fish because we are over-fishing our waters and polluting them. It is called “Chilean Sea Bass” and it is about $20 per pound. Not cheap. But the fact is, its not sea bass, and its not even from Chile. It is actually Patagonian toothfish, a bottom dwelling fish like monkfish. Don’t get me wrong, it has good texture and can be a tasty piece of seafood if prepared well, but it is not worth the $20 per pound retail or the price you pay in a fancy restaurant.
What does this has to do with Cocktail Archaeology is basically everything. I urge you to watch “Sour Grapes” on Netflix before you spend more than a day or week’s salary on a fancy bottle of wine or bottle of whiskey, especially if its “vintage”.
Months before it made the cover of Whisky Advocate Magazine there was a hellfire of posts about a “respected member” of the community who was caught selling fakes of vintage whiskey. On a Private Facebook Group, a fraud was discovered and uncovered. A pair of intelligent sleuths were able to trace a guy buying old empty bottles of whiskey on eBay and refilling them with whiskey, re-sealing them and selling them as vintage at a very high price. I can’t remember all the details about how this guy was outed, but they basically found a bottle with the same chip or flaw that appeared in a photo on eBay which he received from a “reputable friend” on Facebook. It gets a more more amusing, the guy who sold that bottle also made a fake account sticking up for the fraud but it was obvious it was the same person when they made the same common typos like the word “Allot”. “I know I hurt allot of people” then the fake account stated “he is a good guy and has done “allot” of good in the community”. As usual, this spread like wildfire and the memes and jokes when this person said he started to issue “allot” of refunds because he did not want to damage his real estate business.
Today I saw a report from Food & Wine where 10,000 Gallons of tainted alcohol were seized in over 30 raids on Mexican resorts (http://www.foodandwine.com/news/alcohol-mexico-resorts). And it is no surprise that there are many counterfeit Cuban cigars out there, especially in the tourist areas.
One final example is this bottle of Old Weller Antique. It sells for $25 and it is fantastic. Why would anyone buy this same bourbon at 10-15 times the price if it was sold in a fancy bottle by an iconic brand like Pappy Van Winkle? But word has gotten out how great the Old Weller is and now you can find it selling for more than triple the price, especially in boutique stores.
Even Julian Van Winkle III (grandson of “Pappy” Van Winkle) said that if you talk about how great their bourbon is, you are only generating more competition for the one bottle your retailer might reward you with each year if you are one of their better customers.
He goes on to say that Old Weller Antique is basically the same bourbon. Both are 107 proof, and while the Old Rip Van Winkle is aged longer (10 years), the only other difference is that each and every barrel is tasted before it is bottled as “Old Rip Van Winkle” but Old Weller is not. For many this is a very important variable, but if you are a real whiskey drinker, you have to ask yourself if it is really worth all the trouble and expense to obtain a bottle at ten times the price or more.
If you are only looking to impress your friends who don’t know better, just buy an empty bottle online and refill it with something like Old Weller. I did that with a friend who never drinks but likes a bourbon once in a blue moon. He claimed that the Old Rip Van Winkle was better than the Old Weller not knowing that I refilled the bottle of Old Rip with Old Weller. I don’t feel bad at all. I drink bourbon every week, he drinks it once a year and no matter what we talk or argue about he always thinks he knows better. One day I will give him a blind tasting of both and see how that pans out.
The whole point here is not to eat or drink, but to be aware and remember that wine and whiskey were just meant to drink with good food and company (even if its your own). It is not meant to be collected, sold at a profit or purchased for 10-100 times its actual value.