A word of warning if you plan to celebrate the holidays by sipping on vintage Scotch whisky: There's a solid chance the stuff you have is fake. Advanced lab tests on 55 bottles of rare scotch nabbed from auctions, private collections, and retailers revealed 21 were outright fakes or carried the wrong year on the label, reports the BBC, noting age was determined through "residual concentrations of a radioactive isotope of carbon present in the alcohol." The tests were commissioned by Rare Whisky 101, a broker acknowledging "growing concern surrounding the proliferation of fake whisky" sold as vintage. It estimates almost $52 million worth of rare whisky in the secondary market is fake.
While "the vast majority" of vendors aren't selling fake scotch on purpose, RW101 co-founder David Robertson says every rare whisky "should be assumed to be fake until proven genuine," especially the claim is that it's a single malt. The tests showed 10 single malts said to date from 1900 or earlier were fake. Had the 21 fake bottles—including an Ardbeg 1885 and a Thorne's Heritage early 20th-century blend—been genuine, they would've been valued at $800,000, says Robertson. Per the BBC, his company last year proved a shot of Scotch whisky sold in a Swiss hotel bar was fake, and therefore insanely overpriced at $10,050. The Robb Report shares tips on how to spot fakes. (To improve your whisky, try diluting it.)