If you paid several months' salary for less than one ounce of 139-year-old brown liquor, you'd want to be 139 percent sure it's the real thing.
When Zhang Wei, China's highest-paid Internet writer, forked out 10,000 Swiss francs (USD $10,026) on 20 milliliters (0.68 ounces) of Macallan 1878 at the Waldhaus Am See hotel's Devil's Place whisky bar in July, it made headlines and drew a lot of attention from whisky fanatics.
But not all of that attention was good, as whisky experts almost immediately caught a whiff of bullshit with subtle notes of fakery when they saw photos of the cork and label of the Devil's Place bottle circulating online.
This skepticism lead Waldhaus Am See to send samples of the Macallan bottle to a lab, which, according to the BBC, employed carbon dating to determine a "95 percent probability that the spirit was created between 1970 and 1972." A second lab found that the insanely expensive single malt was not even a single malt, but rather, "probably a blended Scotch, comprising 60 percent malt and 40 percent grain."
In other words, Wei spent ten grand on a fake. Waldhaus manager Sandro Bernasconi promptly hopped on a plane to China to personally reimburse the writer.
"When I showed him the results, he was not angry—he thanked me very much for the hotel's honesty and said his experience in Switzerland had been good," Bernasconi told the BBC, adding that the experience with the lab results had been "a big shock to the system, and we are delighted to have repaid our customer in full as a gesture of goodwill."
The bottle was reportedly purchased by Bernasconi's father when he was manager of the hotel, though it sat on the shelf at the Devil's Place, which claims to be "the largest Whisky Bar in the world," for a quarter century before Wei insisted on having some on that fateful day in July. And while it must have been embarrassing for the Waldhaus's crown jewel of Scotch to be a bottle of swill, once thought to be worth $300,000, it seems like the bar has a pretty effective customer service policy.
Matters of authenticity aside, this is a nice—or perhaps painful—reminder that there are actually some people on this planet who have $10,000 to spend on a single tipple. Sigh. Hope they get their money's worth.