Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo
About a year ago, we reported on the strange case of the 1988/2006 Full Proof Hanyu, which seemed to be a fake but wasn’t… We ended that post with the observation that – until then – not a single specimen of a fake Japanese whisky had been documented. That was then... this is now. With the increase in Japanese whiskies at auctions – both the number of bottles offered at high-profile (online) auctions around the world and the hammer prices for these – skeptics suspected it was inevitable that fakes would eventually turn up. Unfortunately, we have received well-documented reports that this has been happening lately, and although we cannot publish all the specifics of these reports (some of which are currently under investigation by the auction houses involved), we wanted to sound the alarm bell so that those who are active in this field can increase their alertness when it comes to the inherently risky enterprise of bidding on rare, expensive whiskies.
To give but one concrete example, here are two “Ace of Hearts”… Were it not for the fact that the buyer already owned a (bona-fide) bottle, s/he would never have suspected s/he’d bought a fake at auction. Since very few people actually open bottles of this caliber (i.e. Ichiro’s cards, Karuizawas, etc), they have no reference in terms of taste. In this case (a sloppy faker at work!), the colour clearly gives it away, though. Either the faker obtained an empty “Ace of Hearts” and filled it with who-knows-what, or the faker used another Ichiro’s Malt bottle of the old type (which Akuto-san used for all of his releases until he switched to the current bottle type), using an Ichiro's whisky of “lesser value” and simply removed the original label and applied a duplicate or one taken off an empty “Ace of Hearts”. There are indications that these fakes are not one-offs, as in some cases, pictures of the 'same' release at other auctions show a liquid with a similar (i.e. wrong!) colour.