Vodka or whisky taste weird? It may be counterfeit alcohol that can kill you or make you very sick

Last year when I was out for the night, a group of us went to a bar on mistake. Google Maps got the address for a different bar, and gave us that address instead of the one we wanted. Ok, we were drinking a little. I ordered my favorite brand of Vodka. I know the taste of it. What I got tasted like a cheap $5 gallon vodka. I had assumed the bar was a ripoff and they put cheap vodka in my favorite brand. My friend who ordered the same thing agreed. We left and looked at the reviews, and we were not the only ones who felt like we were scammed there.

But I do wonder, was it cheap vodka, or counterfeit vodka? Either way, it was fake and not the real brand.  This happens all to much. Remember last year when 8 franchised TGI Friday’s among many other places used rubbing alcohol instead of the real thing? I may never know what that Vodka was since I am not familiar with the taste of rubbing alcohol or paint thinner. I am lucky I guess, as counterfeit and mislabeled alcohol is very common.
42,000 dead Russians, no end in site

That is not a headline from a World War II battle, but the amount of Russians who died in 2007 from counterfeit alcohol. There were major crackdowns by the government following the report, including a ban on internet sales of alcohol. The number of deaths are down, but is no where in a acceptable zone. Just this past March, 14 Russians were lethally poisoned in a single incident due to fake liquor imported China. For 2014, it is estimated that 10 million liters of fake alcohol will be sold in the Russia Federation.

What is in counterfeit alcohol?

Counterfeit liquors are often made with methanol, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), cleaning fluids, nail polish remover and antifreeze. Also since there are no regulation on fake alcohol, many drinks exceed 100 proof .

Not just a Russian problem

Counterfeit alcohol is in every country. As pointed out earlier, the US has the same problem, just not to the same degree as other countries.  26 people in the Czech Republic died after consuming methanol-laced counterfeit vodka and rum, with at least a dozen others sickened, blinded, and brain damaged. Recent headlines:

  • Czech government restricts alcohol sales further after methanol-related deaths
  • 3 dead at least 10 in danger – counterfeit alcohol Manager’s Choice
  • Alcohol-poisoning deaths tied to Northern Cyprus fakes
  • 2011 Turkish Riviera mass alcohol poisoning
  • Seventeen Indians died from fake alcohol during New Year celebration
  • Turkey to Tighten Alcohol Rules After Four Deaths
  • Counterfeit alcohol costs UK £1.2BN a year
  • Indonesia – crew poisoned by counterfeit alcohol
  • Deadly fake spirits flooding Britain’s off-licences: Laced with bleach, nail polish and anti-freeze
  • Man dies after drink fake alcohol

What can be done about this epidemic of fake alcohol? 

Since alcohol made out of paint thinner and such can be made in any house, it is difficult to stop this. Switching real brand alcohol with a cheaper one is also easy to do. The seal is easy to remake. The only way to stop this is to go after the business that sell these fake drinks and punish them. I mean 42k people died in Russia alone! This is a huge criminal act. Granted, it is not a single group making and selling these drinks, but thousands of people. Some business may not know they are selling fake drinks, but most do.  In my state of Oregon, where our business is located too,  the state government regulates the sale of alcohol and controls the supply chain for the whole state. So the bar I went to had no excuse. They cannot play victim. If they sold me a cheap Vodka, they did it on purpose. It they are serving paint thinner, they did it on purpose. If I could go back in time, I would have reported them.

If you suspect your drink is not real, report it to the police.  You can save someones life.

Leave a comment on what you think. Perhaps I should just stick with $5 gallon vodka. I don’t think anyone would counterfeit that. Ever drink alcohol that did not taste right?



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