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I've tasted that $26,000 bottle of Scotch. It's not worth a prison term

A suspect is captured on a surveillance video in a Toronto liquor store where police say he walked out with a $26,000 bottle of 50-year-old Glenfiddich scotch.

It costs $26,000, smells like angel's cologne and has a finish longer than a prison sentence. Or so one shoplifting suspect must have been hoping as he allegedly strolled out of a Liquor Control Board of Ontario store with a rare bottle of 50-year-old Glenfiddich Scotch whisky under his trench coat.

The April 7 theft has left LCBO officials scratching their heads over how a precious bottle kept in a locked display case at a downtown Toronto store slipped past hard-nosed cashiers with a reputation for coldly staring down minors. Toronto police have circulated a security-camera photo of the suspect in an attempt to crowd-source the man's identity. The investigation continues.

But for the curious public, the embarrassing episode raises an inevitable question: Can a bottle of distilled barley really be worth the price of a Honda Accord?

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I happened to sample that Scotch a couple of years ago in the company of Ian Millar, Glenfiddich's global ambassador, and would say this to the thief: Dumb move. It is sublime, yes, still gloriously fruity after a half-century in oak casks and unusually, blissfully smoky for a Glenfiddich single malt. Delicious stuff. Worth time behind bars? Not unless we're talking bars with wood panelling, shot glasses and comfortable stools.

"I've tasted a lot of whisky and that one is quite memorable," said Davin de Kergommeaux, an Ottawa-based spirits expert, who also managed to score a rare sip. "It was creamy, fruity and big, and you could taste the good wood notes with none of the bitterness you might expect of a whisky that old."

De Kergommeaux agrees with me on the value question, though. "I loved that whisky, but would not even dream of spending that kind of money. I open and drink all my bottles and I would rarely pay more than a couple of hundred dollars for a bottle."

William Grant & Sons, which owns the Glenfiddich brand, declined to issue a statement on the matter.

The Toronto heist is the latest in a spate of Grand Theft Whisky jobs that have underscored the deep passions of (criminally inclined) connoisseurs – or the profit motives of outlaws seeking to turn liquid gold into hard cash.

The Nashville City Paper reported that three weeks ago, a Georgia man was indicted on federal charges of commandeering – and later crashing – a tractor-trailer containing some fine-tasting cargo: 3,570 cases of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey.

Last month, police in Scottdale, Pa., reportedly charged a man with receiving stolen property after more than 45 bottles of century-old Pennsylvania rye whisky called Old Farm were drained from a collection sitting below a mansion. The suspect had been renting an apartment in the mansion's basement. Value of the missing stash: $102,400 (U.S.).

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And in 1999, a culprit made off with a $12,000 bottle of Bowmore Scotch from Edmonton's Chateau Louis liquor store. That thief even had the temerity to offer the bottle back to the store for $4,000, threatening otherwise to auction it off to the highest bidder.

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About the Author
Life columnist

Beppi Crosariol writes about wine and spirits in the Globe Life and Style sections.He has been The Globe's wine and spirits columnist for more than 10 years. In the late 1990s, he also wrote a food trends column called The Biting Edge.Beppi used to cover business law for ROB and previously edited the paper's weekly technology section. More

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