The case (or 31 of them) of the missing whisky

The British Revenue & Customs people are convinced a shipment of 186 bottles of a rare cask of Highland Park Scotch whisky left Glasgow Airport as scheduled.

What they don't know is what happened to it.

The shipment, valued at $240,000US, was aboard a Delta Airlines flight bound for Los Angeles, intended to be delivered to Saybrex International, a Beverly Hills spirits company. The 32-year-old whisky is rated as one of the top single malts in the world.

“We are shocked and outraged that 31 cases of alcohol weighing some 800 pounds can just disappear while in the care of Delta and various governmental agencies,” said Ari Bussel, Saybrex International's vice president of operations.

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Simon Praxx said...

Could have been much worse. Could have been something really drinkable, like top line bourbon.

Ari Bussel said...

Thank you very much for posting Martin Moodie’s article about Saybrex / Edrington Group (owners of The Macallan, Highland Park, Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark) “Phantom Cask” which disappeared after Highland Distillers delivered the 31 cartons weighing some 800 pounds to the Glasgow Airport.

Following is another article which appeared in the leading industry daily newsletter. If you require any further information, documentation or contact information, please do not hesitate to let us know.

As we wrote to DHS/CBP Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern:

“If we are not creative, we will not be able to handle issues of major consequences to the public at large as an increased level of threat continues to exist. These ‘130 liters of high strength alcohol weighing some 800 pounds’ could have been ‘liquid explosives,’ ‘radioactive material,’ or any one of other materials that one would not want disappear from within (or enter into) the system without anyone knowing about it.

“Let us make sure we act now, rather than appear before the nation in hearings such as those investigating the September 11th attacks on our country.”

“The issue is relevant to:

a) The industry and the UK economy as billions of GBP of distilled spirits are exported every year, with very substantial air shipments;

b) The public at large as none of us can carry liquids onto planes “for our safety,” and yet this “safety” is quite questionable as shown in this case;

c) Different Government agencies who are entrusted with the public safety (preventing minors from being able to get liquor, ensuring proper payment of duties and taxes - thus for instance the new tax stamps on all bottles sold in the UK, etc.);

d) Anyone who has ever tried to release a liquor shipment (goods traveling in bond) and had to comply with the Code of Federal Regulations and who would like to know how CBP, TTB and other Government agencies act vis-a-vis Delta Airlines under whose bond the goods travelled and in whose custody the goods disappeared without a trace.


Kane’s Beverage News Daily

The National Beverage Daily(tm)

Volume 4, No. 72 Thursday, April 17, 2008

Where’s the Wine? Delta Airlines Can’t Say if It Was Lost or Stolen

Were 31 cases of a 32-year-old cask of Highland Park Single Cask whiskey valued at $240,000 “misplaced” by Delta Airlines or were they stolen?

No one seems to know. But what Saybrex International Inc., a Beverly Hills wine and spirits company, does know is that it never received the whiskey.

The shipment originated at Edrington Group in Glasgow, Scotland on June 18, 2007, and was taken to the Glasgow Airport. It arrived at 5:20 p.m. at Delta’s Glasgow Airport Cargo Terminal, was placed in storage and was constantly observed by closed-circuit television.

Delta has outsourced operation of the terminal to Servisair, which was acquired in 1999 by Penauille Group. In addition to aviation services, Penauille, a French company, is a major provider of industrial cleaning and facility management services.

The next day, it was consolidated with other shipments, sealed, netted and prepared for delivery to the Edinburgh airport for shipment to Atlanta. It was received in Edinburgh at 7:40 a.m. the next day, June 20. The pallet bore the same seal number as when it left Glasgow. Staff at Edinburgh didn’t open the pallet to check the contents. We’re told this is normal: If the seal is intact, it is assumed that the contents are also intact.

The pallet was loaded onboard Delta Flight DL097 for Atlanta en route to Los Angeles on June 20, 2007, according to a report by an investigator for an industry consortium in Scotland. A copy of his report was obtained by Kane’s Beverage News Daily.

Federal regulations make Delta responsible for delivering the product to Customs & Border Protection for clearance.

A Luxury Toast? Or Headed for eBay?

The shipment has not arrived in Los Angeles, Ari Bussel, Saybrex’s vp-operations, told us last night. A Delta spokeswoman said she wasn’t aware of the matter and wouldn’t have any immediate comment.

“This single cask was either left behind while in Delta’s custody and control or was stolen while in Delta’s possession,” Bussel said.

“If the theft was done without knowledge of the true nature and value of the goods, someone may be enjoying a very unique toast, without even realizing it,” Bussel said, adding:

“If, on the other hand, the goods were stolen because of it being a rare, very high value single cask bottling, the bottles may one day appear in the marketplace, either sold to specialty retailers or offered on the web.”

Is Delta Stonewalling?

While the distillery and airport authorities in Scotland have “provided full and detail information” about the shipment “immediately,” Delta has “attempted to bury the issue,” not even filing a Manifest Discrepancy Report that’s required by law, Bussel said.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 23 of last year, according to Bussel, CBP asked Delta to investigate the disappearance of the shipment, and referred the matter to Immigration & Customs Enforcement for a follow-up investigation regarding the shipment.

On March 18, 2008, Saybrex’s customs broker, Frank Gomez of World Exchange, met with CBP officials and was told that “even though they never received correspondence or a response from Delta to confirm the loss,” a refund check for prepaid customs dutieswould be issued. That check was received the next day by Saybrex. — AP

With best regards,

Ari Bussel
Vice President Operations
Saybrex International, Inc.