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Friday, May 24, 2013

Know Your Lagavulin

I'm sick today, so you get this refried news story--though it is a good one. 
In one case, a New Jersey bar allegedly mixed rubbing alcohol with caramel food coloring and served it as scotch.
In another, a bar is accused of pouring dirty water into an empty bottle and passing it off as liquor.
Those are some of the details state officials released today after a year-long investigation called "Operation Swill," which culminated Wednesday when more than 100 investigators raided 29 bars and restaurants across New Jersey on the suspicion they had been serving cheap alcohol disguised as premium brands.
I know that wine researchers regularly find that tasters can't tell the difference between a tumbler of plonk and expensive Burgundy, but really: who's going to be fooled into thinking that a $12 shot of dirty water is Lagavulin?  Bourbon, which is really just fermented, distilled Karo*, I could imagine, but good Scotch?

*I kid!, I kid my bourbon-drinking friends.  


  1. You forget about those of use who are too shy to complain!

  2. Or not shy necessarily, but without the practical means to prove the point and thereby inviting at a minimum an unpleasant interlude in what should be a companionable evening. A few years ago, I ordered a Crown Royal neat and what I got was nowhere near that. I know CR. This was some cheap blended whiskey, perhaps smuggled from the U.S., or perhaps some other cheap liquor doctored in some way. But what are you gonna do...?


  3. I'm an NJ resident, and luckily have never been victimized by the apparent doctoring, but I'm familiar with a few of the restaurants and bars that don't start with a "TGI" and I can't say I'm surprised by the news.

  4. Chris and Gary, I regularly send stuff back. When I was younger I thought I might die of embarrassment, but I learned how to do it with grace. You just say something like "I think there's something wrong with this X, would you mind bringing me Y?" I confess I've never gotten a bad whisky, so I'm not sure how I'd phrase that--but if I'm spending ten dollars an ounce or more, I damn won't accept some obvious fraud. Worst case, I'd make them replace it with a beer.

  5. Imagine there was a "sure" after my damn in the above paragraph.

  6. I feel like the people that are attending establishments that would be inclined to try something like this are the same people who don't care what they gobble as long as they end up on he floor.

    I used to work at a bar that that would refill their Grey Goose vodka with bottles with the cheap, house brand. No one EVER knew the difference- how could they then were were mixing the stuff with red bull? Ew.

    Turning wheel, if people DON'T complain then money hungries will continue the scheming, but the people that the hungries cater to aren't likely to complain as long as they look cool ordering the same liquor they see in rap videos. I once had a young lady sent back a proper Crown Royal because, "it doesn't TASTE like rum." That is because Crown Royal ISN'T a rum, sweetheart.

    Train the people and the businesses will follow, as my grandmother always said.


  7. Karo?!? It's the backslop that makes bourbon taste great, not Karo. Bourbon-making requires roughly 30% of the spent fermented grain, which must be at least 51% corn, be added to the next 'wash' of fermenting corn. More genteel distillers may refer to this as back-set, but we moonshiners just call it backslop. It takes at least three runs to start developing the familiar and delicious bourbon flavor profile.