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sham dram Record-breaking whisky shown to be a fake

glass of whisky

Found guilty: the CHF10,000 dram probably dates from around 1970, nearly a hundred years after initially claimed.

(Sandro Bernasconi)

The world’s most expensive whisky, a CHF9,999 ($9,998) tipple bought last August in a hotel in St Moritz, has been shown in lab testing to be a fake. The hotel has reimbursed the drinker, Chinese writer Zhang Wei.

Suspicion mounted soon after Zhang forked out just under CHF10,000 for a small glass of the whisky, purportedly an 1878 bottle of Macallan Single Malt, at the Waldhaus Am See Hotel in early August.

Now, after being submitted to laboratory tests by Scottish whisky experts and at the University of Oxford, the liquor has been revealed to be a fake, news the hotel confirmed on Thursday.

Carbon dating found that there is a “95% probability that the liquid was created between 1970 and 1972,” according to a press statement sent by the hotel to Moreover, the whisky may not have even been a single malt; Scottish analysts said it was more likely a blended Scotch, of 60% malt and 40% grain.

Bernasconi and Zhang in Beijing

(Sandro Bernasconi)

The hotel has taken responsibility for the mix-up and reimbursed Zhang in full. Owner Sandro Bernasconi even travelled to China to personally apologise and hand over the cheque to the young whisky aficionado.

“The result has been a big shock to the system,” Bernasconi said in the statement, “and we are delighted to have repaid our customer in full as a gesture of goodwill.”

He told the 20 Minutes newspaper on Thursday that Zhang appreciated the honesty and the pair enjoyed an evening chatting about whisky in Beijing (see photo).

Bootleg bottle

The initial story blew across the web in August, when Zhang Wei – an online fantasy fiction author with a big following in China – provoked incredulity with the astronomical purchase from what was believed to be the world’s last unopened bottle of the Macallan vintage. 

The bottle had been bought by Bernasconi’s father Claudio 25 years ago for a “five-figure sum”. However, it didn’t take long for some experts to question the authenticity, and soon the hotel itself sent the bottle for testing in the UK.

“When it comes to selling our customers some of the world’s rarest and oldest whiskies, we felt it was our duty to ensure that our stock is 100% authentic and the real deal,” Bernasconi said.

For now, there is no indication that the hotel is concerned that other bottles in its 2,500-strong collection might also be shams.

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