CONNOISSEURS of rare high-value whisky risk buying cheap counterfeits in online auction houses, industry experts have warned.

An investigation by Dunfermline-based whisky broker Rare Whisky 101 claims to have identified two bottles of Macallan Fine and Rare, one valued at £500,000 and the other around £250,000 – both of which were fake.

The firm, founded by David Robertson and Andy Simpson, undertook scientific analysis of a bottle of Laphroaig 1903 which showed that it was in fact plain blended Scotch, bottled in all likelihood more than a century after it was alleged to have been made.

Mr Simpson said the results demonstrated that professional fraud in the whisky investment market is sophisticated and far more commonplace than previously recognised.

While many fakes are believed to have been produced in the 1980s, the results of tests on what was thought to be the oldest Laphroaig in existence demonstrate that convincing counterfeit bottlings are still being manufactured, in countries such as Spain and Italy, he said.

Rare Whisky 101 attempted to establish the authenticity of the “1903 Laphroaig”, which would in theory be worth up to £20,000 after purchasing it at auction in 2015.

The bottle was subjected to a six-month long series of forensic tests, including dating of the glass and the cork, analysis of peat-derived compounds to ascertain whether these originated in Islay, and chemical analysis which could determine whether the liquid was a single malt or blended Scotch.

A final test, using carbon dating equipment at Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit suggested a 75 per cent chance that the liquid was created between 2007 and 2009.

Mr Simpson said his company had bought the whisky primarily because they were suspicious about its authenticity.

“Despite a very convincing aesthetic, our bottle, which had been circulating at auctions for a good few years, was most certainly a fake and quite possibly the most expensive young blended scotch in the world.” he said.

“We were happy to take it out of circulation.” He said the two Macallans, apart from having identical “unique” bottling numbers were clear frauds.

One was in all probability a blended whisky with dark sherry added. Other fakes in circulation include a batch of six Macallans bearing the name of Roddy Kemp, who owned Macallan 70 years after the alleged bottling in 1824, he said.

“The brand owners are as keen as we are that these things are taken out of the market, because they are damaging to the brand,” he added.

His firm has not yet tried to trace the origin of the most recent fakes. “If Police Scotland were to take an interest we would be delighted,” he said. “We wouldn’t do it ourselves.

“If it turned out to be the work of an organised criminal ring, that’s not the kind of risk we want to be taking on.” The message to whisky enthusiasts and investors is “caveat emptor”, he added.