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Issue 31 - Whiskies of mass deception

Whisky Magazine Issue 31
June 2003


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Whiskies of mass deception

Every day, a game of cat-and-mouse goes on between licensed venues and those protecting the spirits trade. In the middle is the drinker, who is being conned to the tune of millions. Dominic Roskrow reports

If any Trading Standards officer visiting licensed premises wanted a change in career, they could easily give Hans Blix a call and sign up as weapons inspectors.

They are in the front line in the battle to stop unscrupulous licensees swapping branded spirits for cheap substitutes. And watching the weapons inspectors over the last few months, they will have recognised the alleged tricks of delay and deception.

For, hard to believe as it may seem, thousands of publicans, restaurateurs and club staff are going to great lengths to pass off inferior products to the public and to hide the deception from the authorities.

“There is evidence that publicans are ringing other pubs to tip them off that Trading Standards officers are in the area,” says Philip Scatchard of the International Federation of Spirits Producers, which protects the interests of major spirits firms.

“They know that Trading Standards has limited resources and that they are unlikely to visit in the evening, so some replace their spirits only at night and at the weekend. They have become increasingly clever in covering this up.”

‘Tipping' is a simple enough crime. You empty a bottle of branded spirits, fill it up with a cheap version as many times you like, and pocket the difference between the spirits you're selling and the full price the customer is paying for what he/she thinks is a branded product. With inferior whiskies often available at a fraction of the price of top branded ones, the temptation...

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