Pay for Scotch drink Desi daru

Oct 16, 2010, 06:43 IST | Poornima Swaminathan

Recent excise haul points to huge racket using cheap local Whisky, passing it off as posh booze which you buy at pubs and 5-stars

Recent excise haul points to huge racket using cheap local Whisky, passing it off as posh booze which you buy at pubs and 5-stars

the next time you are ordering a shot of that expensive Talisker or Jack Daniels at a pub, think again.

Are you really being served what you asked for? An illegal liquor bust by the Excise Department on Thursday has thrown up some startling revelations.

That imported shot of whiskey you ordered at the bar could well be three parts Indian-made liquor mixed with some country liquor thrown in.

The State Excise department swooped down on an illegal liquor godown in Borivali on Thursday, and arrested three workers Karan Patel, Pavankumar Dubey and Mahadev Joshi.
 
The investigators have launched a manhunt for the masterminds Ambari Patel, and Girish Patel.

Sustained interrogation of the arrested trio revealed that the masterminds, old players in bootlegging, took advantage of empty and undamaged bottles of foreign-made liquor, with the labels intact, and used them to run the illegal racket.

New mix, old pack

"They would collect these bottles and fill up Indian-made liquor and sell it at premium rates," said a senior excise official, requesting anonymity.

The officials seized 500 bottles of various leading international brands worth Rs 9 lakh, filled with Indian-made liquor.
 
An official added that even the liquor that was filled up in the bottles was mixed with cheaper, low quality liquor.

Investigations revealed that the accused bought empty foreign liquor bottles with labels intact for as less as Rs 25 a bottle. This was filled with adulterated Indian liquor and then sold at prevalent market rates.

Organised racket

"Both the absconding accused are old players in bootlegging. They could have been collecting the bottles from high-end hotels and restaurants in the city.

We are tracing the players involved in the racket," added the excise official. Officials suspect that the accused bought the bottles from scrap produced from various five-star and elite hotels in the city.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the illicit liquor trade has been thriving in Mumbai for the last decade or so. The bottles are brought in from Delhi, the corks used in the bottles are made in Wapi and Valsad in Gujarat.
 
To avoid detection, the racketeers use the 'angadia' network, i.e. human carriers who transport it with themselves. "This method of transport is used to avoid detection," said the official.

Ideally, once sold, the empty liquor bottle is crushed, and the label destroyed. However, very few users practice this, which results in illicit liquor production and sales.

 Officials said that most bars sell adulterate alcohol and mix it with cheaper, local liquor.

"We have a few leads about where the group procured the bottles. A few more arrests are likely very soon," added the official.

Modus operandi

Consider this: You walk in a bar, and order a shot of Black Label. The barman will size you up if you have had a few drinks before you came in. If you had, you'll be handed a shot of a pre-mix of Indian-made liquor.

On the other hand, if it's the first drink you are having, your first peg will actually be what you asked for.

After the third or fourth drink, the contraband will start flowing in, and in all probability, you'll never be able to determine which is which.

In dance bars, the percentage of mixing is 70 per cent local brand with an addition of 30 per cent genuine liquor.

So, if you are visiting one, be sure to order only beer, since there is little or no chance that it will be adulterated.

How not to fall prey? Always ask for a sealed bottle, preferably a quarter, and ask the waiter to mix your drink in front of you.

Expertspeak

"Taste is very subjective, so unless you're a regular drinker of say a Black Label, it will be very hard to tell if your whiskey has been adulterated in any way.

But if you are a regular drinker and really know your drink and find that it tastes different or seems not up to the mark, you should make a complaint about it to the hotel or to the host.

The same applies to most types of liquor, but since whiskey is usually consumed neat or with water and no mixers, any palpable difference is more obvious.
 
With other drinks, the mixer can take over the taste and flavour of the drink, making it that much harder to tell if there is any adulteration. With vodka, a seasoned drinker would be able to tell the difference.

Nikhil Agarwal, founder, All Things Nice

Number Game

Rs 9 lakh
Price of the contraband seized by the Excise Department on Thursday

Rs 4,500
Approximate price of a bottle of foreign liquor, for example Jack Daniel's

Rs 100
Approximate price of a bottle of Riya, a locally-made whiskey

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