Buffalo Trace has issued a warning to whiskey fans: Don’t try to buy its bourbons online.
The Kentucky distillery that made headlines a few years ago with the “Pappygate” thefts of hundreds of bottles of pricey Pappy Van Winkle, says it has been targeted again.
This time by online scammers.
The distillery says it has been contacted by “several disappointed fans” who ordered premium whiskeys online, were charged for the transactions, then received nothing.
Or, in some cases, the buyers got empty bourbon bottles, “many of which were counterfeit,” the distillery says. Some even included plastic toppers rather than Buffalo Trace’s metal toppers.
According to the distillery, “although various brands from Buffalo Trace’s portfolio have been targeted, “its Blanton’s and Double Eagle Very Rare Bourbons are being attacked particularly hard by these scam artists.”
It’s easy to see why: Bottles of these bourbons are in high demand and low supply, commanding huge prices on secondary (often illegal) markets.
Double Eagle Very Rare, released in February, is one of the oldest, rarest and priciest bourbons the distillery has ever released, with a suggested retail price of $2,000 a bottle.
So Buffalo Trace put out the alert and tips saying that the distillery never sells its whiskeys online, despite social media post promising Buffalo Trace Distillery whiskeys at low prices.
“We’ve had fans from across the U.S. contact us to tell us they’ve been duped. We’ve taken legal action to have the sites shut down and also sent notices to the social media companies asking them to take action, but unfortunately the situation persists,” said Mary Tortorice, general counsel for Sazerac Co., parent of Buffalo Trace, said in a news release.
Tips for online bourbon shopping: What’s allowed
“In all but six states plus the district of Columbia, it is illegal to ship alcohol directly to consumers,” Tortorice said. “One of the tip offs is if the website will process your order with shipment to your state, if you are located in one of the 44 states where shipping alcohol directly to your home is illegal. Another red flag is if the website is located in another country, as the majority of the scams we have seen have been located overseas.”
Tortorice also warns of prices that seem too low, the old adage of “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” applies here.
And even if you do order and receive a filled bottle, there might be other issues. The contents may be fake and even dangerous.
Think you’ve been duped?
The sale of counterfeit alcohol, which claims the lives of thousands of people a year, has long been a global problem and is now becoming a problem in the United States as the market deregulates the sale of alcoholic beverages, according to Buffalo Trace.
Fans who have been duped are advised by the distillery to report the site to the Better Business Bureau, your state Attorney General and to your contact credit card company about fraud protection.
The whiskey industry has long known that there is a thriving black market for high-end bourbons. Facebook has taken steps to shut down online sales through private bourbon groups. One of the most coveted bottles, Pappy Van Winkle, is so rare that auctions and sellers sometimes provide provenance for the bottles to ensure legitimacy.