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Issue 28 - An old con

Whisky Magazine Issue 28
January 2003


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An old con

Dave Broom exposes the shady side of the antique, collectable whisky market

It was over two years ago when the rumours began that slightly dubious bottles of old whiskies were beginning to appear at auction and were being offered to private collectors. These claims weren't being made by one individual but by many, unconnected people. Archivists, ex-industry executives, retailers and collectors were all approaching me and talking about the same thing.

The bottles had started to appear around six or seven years ago. What surprised many people was the fact that while in the past there may have been an occasional bottle appearing at auction, there now appeared to be a constant stream of obscure bottles which no one had ever seen before, most of them in remarkably good condition. Moreover, for the first time antique malt whiskies were appearing alongside the established blends. As one source said “It was almost too good to be true. I had one person saying ‘I can get anything you want.'” This may have been an idle boast, but given the sudden volume of rare bottles appearing, it seemed to be not far from the truth.

Okay, it does happen. Bentleys are found in barns, Old Masters are discovered in lofts, the occasional case of fine wine or old whisky does appear. The difference here was it wasn't just one bottle of each malt appearing. Two, three, even four identical bottles would be in each batch. To find one rare 19th century malt bottling is remarkable enough. To find two or three examples of the same bottle, in the same condition, is truly miracul...

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