How To Spot Fake Bourbon: Real vs Counterfeit (2023)

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin

The world of bourbon is full of scammers and con artists looking to take advantage of unsuspecting drinkers. 

Here are a few tips on how to spot fake bourbon, so you don’t become a victim!

10 Ways To Spot A Fake Bourbon 

10 Ways To Spot A Fake Bourbon 

1. Check the Spelling on the Label

When it comes to spotting fake bourbon, checking the spelling on the label is essential. A correct spelling indicates that the distillery takes pride in its product and is willing to invest in quality control. In contrast, a distillery that doesn’t bother to check the spelling will cut corners in other areas. Of course, there are other factors to consider, but spelling is a good place to start. 

2. Dull Label & Different Font Style 

E.H Taylor Jr. Bourbon

As anyone who’s ever spotted fake bourbon knows, its labeling is a big part of the drink’s appeal. The distinctive fonts and intricate designs are part of what makes bourbon so special. However, some unscrupulous manufacturers try to pass off fake bourbons by using dull labels and different font styles. 

This can be hard to spot, but there are a few things to look for. First, check to see if the label is printed on cheap paper. Second, see if the fonts are mismatched or look out of place. Finally, examine the overall design of the label. If it looks amateurish or sloppy, it’s probably a fake. 

3. Unique Duty Stamp & Barcode

As any bourbon lover knows, a bottle of the good stuff is only as good as its unique duty stamp and barcode. These two things help to spot a fake bourbon from a mile away. The duty stamp is a special mark applied to every bottle of bourbon before it is shipped, and the barcode is a unique identifier assigned to each batch of bourbon. 

Together, these two things help ensure that you are getting the real deal when you purchase a bottle of bourbon. So next time you are in the market for some authentic Kentucky bourbon, check for the unique duty stamp and barcode.

Read: How Do You Make Bourbon?

4. Authentic But Recycled Bottle

Bourbon Empty Bottle

Fake distillers will most likely buy original bourbon bottles and fill them with fake liquor. Hence, it won’t be easy to spot which is fake, considering the original label and bottle. However, there’s one thing you can do to verify – check the expiry and manufacturing date. If the date seems long, then the bottle is probably recycled.

5. Different Texture & Color 

Have you ever been out to a nice restaurant and ordered a glass of bourbon, only to take a sip and realize that it’s not real? Chances are, you were served a cheaper knock-off that was made with lower-quality ingredients. 

But how can you spot the difference? The easiest way is to look at the color. Authentic bourbon should be a deep amber color, while fake bourbon is often more of a light brown. Fake bourbon also tends to have a thinner texture, almost like water.

6. Smells Unauthentic

A Glass of Bourbon

One of the most important things to know about spotting fake bourbon is that it has a different smell. This is because alcohol is a volatile molecule, and it evaporates quickly. When you put your nose near bourbon, you should be able to smell the alcohol. If you can’t, then it’s probably fake. 

Fake bourbon also often smells sweeter than real bourbon. This is because the makers of fake bourbon add sugar to their products to make them taste more like the real thing. So, if you’re trying to spot fake bourbon, be sure to give it a good sniff before you buy it.

7. Burns Like Chili When Drank

It’s no secret that some bourbons can pack a bit of a punch. But did you know that drinking fake bourbon can set your mouth on fire? In recent years, there have been several reports of so-called “bourbon” containing high methanol [1] levels. Drinking fake bourbon is basically like setting your mouth on fire with cancer-causing chemicals. Here’s how to drink bourbon as a beginner

8. Gives The Worst Hangover


If you’ve ever woken up with a pounding headache after a night of drinking, you know that not all alcohol is created equal. Some types of booze are just plain easier on the head than others. And according to a new study, fake bourbon is the absolute worst when it comes to giving you a hangover.

So if you’re looking to avoid a headache the next morning, it’s important to spot the fake bourbon before you start drinking. But even if you don’t, there’s no need to worry too much. Just be sure to drink plenty of water before bed, and you should be good to go.

9. Shake & Check the “Beading”

When it comes to spotting fake bourbon, the experts say to shake and check the “beading.” If the liquid forms tiny droplets, or beads, on the side of the glass, it’s likely a fake. The beading is caused by sugar and other impurities that are not found in real bourbon. 

Read: Cask Strength Bourbon Explained 

10. Unbelievably Cheap

Whiskey Decanter with Evan Williams Bourbon

You may have seen the ads: “unbelievably cheap bourbon.” It seems too good to be true, and unfortunately, it usually is. Most of these “unbelievably cheap” bourbons are fake, made with inferior ingredients, and contain very little bourbon.


Is there a fake bourbon?

Yes. A few brands out there use misleading marketing to try and trick drinkers into thinking their whiskey is real bourbon when in reality it’s not. Sometimes these brands will use terms like “sourced from Kentucky” or “blended in Kentucky,” which technically means the whiskey contains at least some Kentucky-made spirit. But other times, these brands will simply use Kentucky imagery on their bottles or labels without mentioning where the whiskey is actually from.

How do you prevent buying a fake bourbon?

There are a few ways that you can prevent buying a fake bourbon. First, only buy from a reputable source. If you’re not sure about the source, do some research to ensure they’re credible. Second, check the bottle closely for any signs of tampering. Don’t buy if the seal is broken or the label looks like it’s been tampered with. Third, know what you’re looking for. 


So how can you spot a fake bourbon? First, look for the telltale signs of lower-quality liquor: impurities, inconsistencies, and a generally cheap appearance. 

Second, check the label for flavoring or coloring agents; real bourbon is made with nothing but water, yeast, grain, and time. Finally, ask yourself whether the price seems too good to be true; if it does, it probably is. 

With these tips in mind, you should be able to spot a fake bourbon from a mile away.



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.

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