Is Chinese tourist’s expensive dram ‘a fake’?

The story of a Chinese tourist paying over £7,000 for a dram of ‘1878 Macallan’ has taken an alarming twist after it was pointed out the bottle was likely one of a run of famous fakes uncovered in the early 2000s.

The unnamed Chinese tourist with the hotel’s manager, Sandro Bernasconi. The bottle can be seen, bottom left.

The unnamed man made the news recently when it was reported he had paid CHF 9,999 for a single 20ml dram of the venerable Scotch whisky at the Hotel Waldhaus am See in Saint Moritz in Switzerland.

The story seemed to encapsulate the current heights (or madness depending on one’s point of view) of the craze for rare Scotch and what people were prepared to for it.

Now it seems the story also represents the other, more unfortunate, side of rare Scotch – fakes.

As reported on Scotchwhisky.com, a number of whisky experts and enthusiasts have pointed out that the bottle is very likely from a run of infamous knock-offs that were produced in Italy some years ago as the Scotch mania began to gather momentum.

A number of remarkably similar bottles were scooped up by The Macallan itself in the early 2000s to bolster its old library stock but subsequent tests revealed the whiskies to be fake with the spirit inside probably no older than 10 years or so.

The possible provenance of the bottle was brought up on one site called Whiskyfun, run by the experienced collector Serge Valentin.

Among the notable ‘tells’ that the bottle might not be all it claims to be is the condition of the label which is too new for such a rarity (fake fine wines often have too-pristine labels as well) and the cork doesn’t look like one that has actually spent over 100 years in a bottle neck.

Another crucial detail is that the label claims that the Speyside malt is guaranteed by “Roderick Kemp, proprietor, Macallan and Talisker Distilleries Ltd.”

Kemp was a giant of the Scotch distilling industry in the mid to late 19th century and owned both The Macallan and Talisker but, importantly, never at the same time.

The manager of the hotel, Sandro Bernasconi, whose father built a large Scotch collection that is the basis of the hotel’s famous whisky bar, has expressed dismay at the news and promised to send the whisky for verification and refund the buyer of the dram if the bottle does indeed prove to be counterfeit.

In a statement to the drinks business, The Macallan’s owner the Edrington Group, said it was, “in the process of contacting Mr. Bernasconi to provide all possible assistance in this matter.”

The whisky is apparently to be sent to a laboratory in Scotland for tests, with the results expected in the near future.

One Response to “Is Chinese tourist’s expensive dram ‘a fake’?”

  1. David Wong says:

    He is Zhang Wei, pen name Tang Jia San Shao. He is a very famous internet novel writer in Mainland China. He was also listed in 2015 Forbes list of Chinese celebrities.

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