Fake booze: Your expensive tipple might not be the real deal

In his thread, Masubelele explained how to spot a fake Hennessy. Picture: Pexels/Anastasia Zhenina

In his thread, Masubelele explained how to spot a fake Hennessy. Picture: Pexels/Anastasia Zhenina

Published Jan 10, 2024


The sale of fake alcohol has seen an uptick during the festive season.

Most recently, Cape Town law enforcement officers discovered an illegal distillery in Khayelitsha while patrolling the area.

They found several bottles of various alcohol brands, from Old Buck Gin, Gordon’s Gin, Jameson Whiskey and Smirnoff Vodka at the property, along with empty boxes of Gordon’s Gin bottles, bottle caps and stickers, and 17 sealed 25-litre canisters containing chemicals.

But if you think it’s your run-of-the mill liquor that criminals are selling off as genuine alcohol brands, think again.

Liquor industry expert and champagne exporter Oscar Ponto Masubelele has cautioned those with more expensive taste to be on the look-out for the fake versions.

Taking to X, he wrote: “I received a call from someone who thinks they might have drunk a fake Hennessy VS because they got very sick after consumption.”

A bottle of the cognac brandy retails anything from R500 to R600. Calling it cheap is an understatement.

In his thread, Masubelele explained how to spot a fake Hennessy.

The original Hennessy bottle has “1765” engraved just below the label.

“Fake Hennessy do not have this engraving, or sometimes the imprint does not bulge and can not be felt by touch," he added.

The brand uses laser protection and a Holosleeve hologram to seal their bottles, explained Masubelele.

According to a Sleever.com press release, the Holosleeve concept “provides the particularly vulnerable market of wines and spirits with a targeted visual anti-forgery signature”.

Another tell-tale sign is if the cork is loose and you can wobble it around, it’s probably been home-made and fake, Masubelele said.

THe Illicit alcohol trade is a R20.5-billion industry, according to the SA Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba), citing a report by Euromonitor.

While speaking to IOL’s sister publication The Cape Argus, Salba CEO Kurt Moore said fake alcohol was categorised in the report as counterfeit and illicit brands, which includes substitution, where empty bottles of legitimate products are refilled with cheaper illicit alcohol.

To stop yourself from falling into the fake booze trap, there are few more things to consider:

  • Always buy your liquor from authorised retail shops.
  • Even when buying from authorised stores, check the packaging closely.
  • Make sure the seal of the bottle is secure and there are no signs of tampering.

IOL Lifestyle