Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fake No More: the strange case of Hanyu 1988/2006 for Full Proof

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

It all started when a whisky fan in Germany spotted two bottles of Hanyu 1988 from the same cask (#9204) and the same release (bottled in 2006 for Full Proof Holland) with … the same serial number (bottle no. 104).
© WhiskyAuction.Com
Fairly quickly, word spread that fake Hanyus could be circulating at auctions. People compared the two pictures and noticed that: a) the fill level was slightly different; b) the cap was different (one with perforated foil, the other without) and c) most suspicious of all, one label contained a spelling mistake (‘pancheon’) whereas the other didn’t (‘puncheon’). It all seemed very strange and when people contacted us, we weren’t quite sure what to make of it ourselves. Further research revealed there were loads of bottles of either type circulating and brought to light at least one other instance of two bottles with the same serial number (one had been sold at auction in New York, the other in Germany).

We contacted the people responsible for the bottling (Venture Whisky, Full Proof and Number One Drinks) and, after a bit of memory searching on their part, were happy to learn that it wasn’t a case of evil minds faking Hanyu whiskies, after all. So, to put the rumours and suspicions to sleep once and for all, this is what happened… eight long years ago.

In 2006, Jeroen Koetsier of Full Proof Holland ordered half of cask #9204, i.e. 204 bottles. He used the information provided by Akuto-san (vintage, abv, cask number and cask type) for the label design and nobody spotted that the word puncheon had been misspelled (it said: ‘pancheon’ which is the Japanese phonetic spelling of the word ‘puncheon’). Three months later, Jeroen put in an order for the remaining half of the cask (i.e. another 204 bottles). In the meantime, he had been alerted to the spelling mistake and his thinking was that “there was no need to put ‘Batch 2’ on the label, because we just corrected the mistake.” The decision was made to number the bottles of this second batch from 1 to 204, instead of continuing the numbering from 205 – maybe not so wise, in retrospect. The cask was bottled by Sasanokawa (where all the remaining Hanyu stock was warehoused before Akuto-san set up Chichibu distillery) and, somehow, between the two batches, they switched from using a perforated capsule to using a non-perforated one. So, both types (‘pancheon’/perforated foil and puncheon/non-perforated foil) are legitimate Hanyus.

Soon after the ‘suspected fake’ Hanyu for Full Proof was spotted, people were quick to surmise that it was inevitable for fakers to turn their attention to Japanese whisky given the astronomically high prices at auctions lately. We are happy to say that – up until now (knock on wood!) – there hasn’t been a single instance of a fake Japanese whisky. But, granted, in the case of the Hanyu 1988/2006 for Full Proof, truth certainly turned out to be stranger than fiction.

Special thanks to Christoph M and Aaron C, for help with the ‘detective work’.

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