Fake alcohol in China and how to avoid it

Fake alcohol in China and how to avoid it

Everybody who has visited China (and even most that haven’t) know that China is acountry of counterfeits, some of them good, and some not. Today, let’s talk about an industry that arguably affects the most expats: fake alcohol. Is all of it of bad quality, or do we still have some kind of alcohol to enjoy here?

Well, it’s a little easy to spot the fake here, but it’s not always so black and white.

Well, speaking about alcohol we can’t miss the type of alcohol in Chinese clubs. There we can find any type of expensive alcohol from whiskey to vodka and tequila. Considering the fact that almost all clubs give foreigners free entrance and don’t charge for alcohol, can we really believe that inside that bottle of “Jack Daniels” there is authentic whiskey- or a cheap substitute?

There are several different types and ways that fake alcohol is produced, the most common being that counterfeiters refill empty bottles of genuine alcohol with cheap substitutes. Another way is that while alcohol is being shipped the cheap brand labels are stripped off the bottle and replaced with a well-known brand. This is a simple way that a subpar drink can be transformed into an expensive brand and sold for a large amount.

Furthermore, can we be sure that even in special stores that we are buying real alcohol, or even in duty free stores? In this case we have to be very careful, because commonly at these clubs the luxurious alcohol brands are filled with the cheapest one, and even in duty free, there are a lot of bottles of imported brands of alcohol which are actually produced in China.

Examples of these things are numerous. Just two years ago the founder of Nine Springs Ecological Agriculture Development Company in China was arrested. The case for arresting the guy was that the company added a form of Viagra into alcohol products, without clients knowing- even producing 750 liters of it! The owner was buying pills online and adding it to the alcohol, and sold it under the pretense of “health giving liquor.” A bottle of this “magical health giving liquor” cost 30 kuai for 100 ml. The special ingredient was never mentioned on the bottles’ labels.


Fake alcohol is harming businesses and the economy but more importantly it’s dangerous for your health.

So how can you spot fake alcohol? The easiest way to spot a fake is to remember the 4 P’s; Place, Price, Packaging and Product.

1. Place: Make sure you purchase your alcohol from a reputable place

2. Price: If it is too good to be true, then more than likely it is, try to avoid cheap drinks.

3. Packaging:

• Try to buy bottled drinks especially when drinking beer

• Make sure the caps are properly sealed

• Look for poor quality labelling – grammatical, spelling or printing errors, does the plastic security seal rub off easily, ensure the label is positioned correctly and consistent with other bottles

• Scan bottle codes using mobile apps and see if it’s listed, or if it comes back as a fake code (QR codes or codes embossed into the bottle)

• Check the bottle thoroughly – some bottles have specific etchings or particular specifications

• Look for a serial number normally on the cap, back label or the backside of the label however not all brands have them

4. Product:

• Avoid alcohol that smells bad – look out for the smell of nail varnish, paint thinner and methanol (obviously).

• Avoid alcohol that doesn’t taste right for example wine should taste round

• Check unfamiliar brand names online

• Become familiar with your favorite brand so when you are out you can tell if there is a difference

• Some drinks are diluted with tap water for example check for white particles or sediment in the bottle especially in Vodka

• A slightly fruity breath smell and a severe hangover the next morning is an indication that you had fake alcohol.

But is all Chinese alcohol so bad? If you listen to Jack Ma even he thinks fake products are usually better than the original. Not true with alcohol. However, nowadays China is becoming a huge producer of wine, which to my experience is quite equal to imported wines. The wine industry in China is successfully developing, expanding the market to more and more Chinese as well as globally. According to statistics, each year the wine industry increases 20% in China. The best Chinese wine companies are “Great Wall,” “Changyu,” and “Dynasty,” which strictly answer to worldwide organizations’ standards.

Of course, not all the alcohol in China is fake, look out for fake versions of well-known brands and be wary of unusual brand names you haven’t seen before. Be careful, take care of your health and better to think twice before doing something.




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