Tips to identify genuine liquor

Even under normal circumstances, alcohol products are among those which remain under the continuous threat of counterfeiting. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the problem has further aggravated due to a gap in demand and supply. In last one month, almost every day a seizure had been reported in India related to smuggled or illicit liquor.

There is always a risk of human life-consuming illicit alcohol. As per the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, harmful alcohol consumption resulted in over 3 million deaths in 2016, and most of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Counterfeiters ape the packaging of popular branded products to dupe customers into buying their fake, substandard, or bad quality products. But there are simple ways by which you can identify genuine liquor products. Chander S Jeena, Secretary of Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA), a non-profit organization working towards building up authentication eco-systems in-country, lists down a few:

Choose authorized sellers: Try to buy only from authorized sellers (retail) shop. Do not fall prey to online delivery of alcohol advertisements. Insist for a proper bill for your purchase. If there is online delivery system, please re-verify it from state excise website.

Look closely at the packaging: Always pay close attention to the packaging. Counterfeiters can produce a close copy, but they mostly cannot perfect it. Usually, there are visible differences in the size, logo, and colors used in packaging. This difference might be as small as the text that is being used or a slight change in the logo. A regular user with a keen eye might spot it in an instance. For example: Names such as Johnnie Walker should be with an �ie’ and not a �y’ and Chivas Regal would suddenly be turned into Chivas Rigal. Never accept a product that might seems previously been opened. These features are generally missing from fake make-up products. Smudged labels also indicate that the product is counterfeit.

Check for Government Tax stamps (Authentication signs): The most important is check for authentication features. These are extremely difficult to copy and replicate for counterfeiter. Most of the liquor bottles carry anti-counterfeiting features called tax stamps on neck of their bottle (For example, security hologram or paper label with QR code). These are placed to ensure that the product is original and untampered. One can verify these codes from state excise website or via mobile app. For instance, Delhi has one such “mLiquorSaleCheck”.

Check the manufacturing and expiry date: The scariest part about fake alcohol is how vendors would buy back empty real bottles from bars and clubs, then fill those bottles with the contraband liquid. If the date seems to be way too long ago, then that is likely a recycled bottled.

Before consumption check for shade, colour and smell: Beware of inconsistency in texture, smell, and colour of the product. These are indicators if the product is fake or original. A responsible-reputed brand would never compromise on quality. Generally, alcohol smells strong, spicy, woody or fruity depending on the type you purchase. However, it will definitely not smell like nail varnish, turpentine, or chemicals – which are common scents for fake hard liquor.