Earlier this week, two men were arrested in Japan for selling bottles of fake Hibiki. The bottles were real, but the whisky inside was bogus.
According to Jiji (via The Japan Times, where, full disclosure, I am a columnist), Mie Prefecture police arrested Tokyo-natives Takeaki Nemoto, 29 years-old, and Yu Sasagawa, 26. They were charged with alleged trademark violation and fraud.
The men sold five faux Hibiki 30-year-old bottlings via the online Mercari fleamarket app. Authorities are quoted as saying that the bottles and the packaging were real, but the contents were not Hibiki 30.
The original retail price of Hibiki 30 is 125,000 yen ($1,122) per bottle. According to Asahi (via George Koutsakis at Forbes), the 30-year-old blend is reselling for as high as 500,000 yen ($4,487) a bottle. However, the two suspects were selling their fakes for less than half that.
Both have admitted to selling the whiskies, but are quoted as saying they didn’t know they were counterfeits.
What can you do to protect yourself from fake Hibiki? One way is to buy it from a respected retailer. Also, be aware of what the real bottlings look like as well as the fakes. Redditor Yellowfinger created this helpful comparison:
Yellowfinger highlights the seal’s ripline (the real one is a lightning pattern, while the fake is a dotted flat line), adding “[The] real Hibiki seal ripline does not go all the way to the bottom and most importantly, there is vertical rip seal at the end. The fake one goes all the way to the end.”
Of course, counterfeits are bound to get better and for desirable and expensive Japanese whiskies, there are bound to be fakes. Take note!