Oldest wine shop in US fined over fake bourbon

A liquor store in New York said to be the oldest in the US has been fined $100,000 over alleged sales of counterfeit bourbon it acquired from ‘unauthorised’ sources.

The civil penalty for Acker Merrall & Condit Co – which according to the company has a history dating back to 1820 – was agreed last month at a meeting of the New York State Liquor Authority, and is the maximum possible fine for this type of activity, according to state regulators.

An investigation into the store was launched after it was found to have been selling fake bottles of Colonel EH Taylor Four Grain Bourbon by the television programme Inside Edition, which carried out a test purchase of a bottle in 2021 and had it analysed, confirming it was fake with a  different proof to the genuine bourbon. The bottles of knockoff liquor were being sold for around $1,000 each.

The sought-after bourbon won the World Whisky of the Year title in the 2018 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

The fake bottle was reportedly bought by the company from a private collector, and the SLA said an expert company like Acker should have been aware that discrepancies in its packaging – including a missing lot code and the wrong tube packaging – indicated it was not a genuine bottle from the manufacturer Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Acker was fined for purchasing whiskey from unauthorised sellers on five occasions in 2020 and 2021 and for failing to keep the proper paperwork, according to public records. It has been reported that the offending bottles had been bought by company employees, who have not lost their jobs but have been disciplined.

New York SLA Commissioner Vincent Bradley told attorneys during the hearing that “there was clear fraud here, or at least a large potential for fraud.”

It's another embarrassing situation for the prestigious store, which has previously come under the spotlight for its association with notorious wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, who was deported from the US in February after serving a seven years of a 10-year jail term.

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