This Rich Tourist Paid $10,000 for Scotch that Was Probably Fake

Elizabeth Licata
It’s not every day that a customer wants to pay $10,000 for a .67-ounce taste of Scotch, but that happened recently at the Devil’s Place Whiskey Bar in St. Moritz, Switzerland. After the news got out, however, whisky experts from around the world said the bottle was almost certainly fake. On...

It’s not every day that a customer wants to pay $10,000 for a .67-ounce taste of Scotch, but that happened recently at the Devil’s Place Whiskey Bar in St. Moritz, Switzerland. After the news got out, however, whisky experts from around the world said the bottle was almost certainly fake.

On July 29, a tourist convinced Sandro Bernasconi, proprietor of the Devil’s Place Whiskey Bar, to open the bar’s prize possession: An ultra-rare bottle of Macallan whisky from 1878. The bottle was from Bernasconi’s father’s collection, and the bar never intended to actually open it. When the customer was serious about tasting it, however, Bernasconi was convinced.

Bernasconi said at the time that he was petrified when opening it, because he thought the cork would have fallen apart or the whisky would be bad. The bottle opened nicely, though, and the customer was happy with the .67-ounce beverage he paid $10,000 for.

According to Shanghaiist, the customer was fantasy novelist Zhang Wei, China’s richest and most prolific online writer. He’s written more than 150 novels in 12 years, and according to the New York Times he made $16.8 million in 2015. So that’s how he can afford to spend $10,000 for a single whisky.

“I was in Switzerland and saw a 100-year-old whisky. I didn’t spend long weighing up whether to get it,” Zhang posted on social media after the experience. “In a nutshell, it tasted good. I was drinking not so much the whisky but a lot of history.”

After the news of the open bottle and the $10,000 Macallan came out, however, a number of whisky experts contacted Bernasconi to say the bottle was probably fake.

According to Wine Searcher, the label on the bottle claims that the whisky was distilled in 1878, and was matured for 27 years. The label also says the whisky is "guaranteed absolutely pure by Roderick Kemp, proprietor, Macallan and Talisker Distilleries Ltd."

The thing is, though, that Roderick Kemp never owned Macallan and Talisker at the same time, and there’s no record of a “Macallan and Talisker Distilleries Ltc.” ever existing.

The bottle most likely came from a store of fake Macallans that came out of Italy in the early 2000s. They’re very convincing fakes, though. Back in 2002, Macallan itself bought 100 bottles that were later proved to be fake. Bernasconi’s is likely from the same batch of fakes.

Bernasconi says he contacted Zhang to tell him about the possibility that the whisky was fake. He says he’s having the bottle tested by experts in Scotland, who will analyze the whisky, the glass bottle, the label, the glue, and the cork. If they confirm it is fake, he says he will refund Zhang’s $10,000.

If he gets his money back, Zhang should consider checking out these 16 bottles of liquor that cost more than a diamond.