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Issue 93 - Faking It

Whisky Magazine Issue 93
January 2011


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Faking It

Josephine McDermott is a China commentator. She has reported on China for three years and writes for the Weekly World edition of the Daily Telegraph

You wanna buy hanna baga watcha?” is a question many a foreigner gets asked on high streets in the centre of Chinese cities.

The person asking will gladly lead you to a room down a back alley filled floor to ceiling with counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags and Rolex watches. Copycat culture or ‘shanzai' is everywhere in China. If a product is popular, it gets copied, whether it's a handbag, shoe, MP3 player or TV drama.

Whisky is no different. The more it's drunk in bars and karaoke clubs, the more counterfeit products enter the market. Order Chivas, Johnnie Walker or Dewar's in a Chinese nightclub and there's a fair possibility that what you are served will not be the real McCoy. Particularly with blends, you run the risk of either being served a cheaper version of what you asked for or something produced in a Chinese distillery that has a closer affinity to Shenzhen than Scotland.

Bar managers say even if they find a reliable supplier, bottles can be switched by drivers and bar staff looking to make a quick Yuan on the side. Conscientious bars smash their empty bottles each week and record serial numbers.

So the announcement that the Chinese government will officially recognise and protect Scotch whisky as that made in Scotland was welcomed by many. But at the same time the UK diplomats were patting themselves on the back in Beijing, a shelf in Lianyungang on China's northern east coast was being re-stocked. Here, as in other outposts far from China's major, ‘first...

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