It's now a little bit easier to get your hands on that rare bottle of spirits, but more accessibility, opens the door for products that may not be real.
Beginning January 1, 2018, Kentucky law allowed for secondary retailers to sell vintage spirits. While great for access, it increases the chance that the booze--may not be what it says it is.
"We really know that the only place counterfeit product can be introduced into the supply chain is through that vintage spirit. So they are probably very under reported because nobody that buys counterfeit product is probably going to complain," explained Simone Bianconcini, Vice President of Sales at Republic National Distributing Company.
So what can you do to make sure you are getting your hands on the real thing?
“My warning to you would be to make sure when you are buying that special bottle and it’s one of those hard to find bourbons, that you ask a couple of questions," said Bianconcini. "Take a look at the package and the product. Does it look like it should look for a vintage spirit? Is the price right, because those vintage spirits are generally very expensive. If they are a little bit less expensive than it should be then it very well could be counterfeit product. And lastly the place, make sure you are buying it from a reputable vendor.”
Keep in mind--if the price is too good to be true--it probably is.
"It should be even higher at a retail establishment than what you are probably paying online in some of those forums where people like to go to find those whiskeys," said Bianconcini. "So I would say if you are buying something at retail, you should probably pay as least as much as you would pay online probably more, and that’s when you need to be cautious if you find it dramatically less than you expected.”
Bianconcini recommends buying from someone in the three tier system, meaning it comes straight from the supplier, to the distributor, to the retailer.
The risks of buying counterfeit products can range.
“The best case scenario is you are getting a lesser product and paying more for it. That would be the best case scenario," said Bianconcini. "The worst case scenario is you don’t know what product is in the bottle. Outside of this country we have seen people who have consumed a product that is poisonous and they have had serious medical side effects from it."
You don't need to be concerned about every spirit just those hard to get ones.
“The majority of product you buy at retail is perfectly fine. In fact we would say 99% of all the products you are going to buy are perfectly safe it’s only those vintage spirits you have to be aware of," Bianconcini said.
Finally, while convenient, Bianconcini says online is not the place to go to when buying vintage spirits.