Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon is so rare and highly regraded that it has earned cult-like status among whiskey drinkers. It has also earned top-dollar prices, leading to a rash of counterfeiters in recent years peddling knock-off bottles sold illegally on secondary markets like Craigslist.
To crack down on this illicit activity, the Van Winkles, along with partners Buffalo Trace Distillery, have taken action. Recently they provided evidence of counterfeiting which resulted in a resident of New York pleading guilty for his sale of two bottles of counterfeit Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which sold for $1,500 last year. The defendant will be sentenced in January 2018.
Although this case is the first successful prosecution for counterfeit Van Winkle Bourbon to date, other cases are under investigation, the company says. Buffalo Trace Distillery has spent over a half million dollars over the past year alone to curb online marketplaces potentially selling fake bottles.
“With the annual release of the much anticipated Van Winkle bourbons coming up soon, Buffalo Trace would like to take this opportunity to remind consumers to only buy Van Winkle bourbons from licensed retailers,” the company says in a press release.
“Avoid buying any bourbon or whiskey, especially the highly sought after ones, from anyone in the secondary market, which includes online private sellers, or in these social media groups that claim to offer genuine products,” adds Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer of Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Scam artists have been operating in a variety of ways, including refilling empty Van Winkle bottles with a variety of other liquids, sometimes cheaper bourbons, sometimes mixtures of products only known to the deceiver. Also, con artists have gotten more sophisticated with the ability to print counterfeit labels on home printers and other technological advances.
Van Winkle cautions that if you see a bottle that does not have a matching face label with a capsule on top with the proper corresponding color, that’s a sure sign of fraud. Any consumers that run across suspicious looking bottles or may have purchased a bottle from a source other than a liquor store are urged to call their local law enforcement, their state’s Attorney General, or their state Alcohol and Beverage Control Board.