Fake Booze: Convenience stores start stocking shelves with faux liquor

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Residents may have seen some new bottles of alcohol on the shelves of their favorite gas station.

They look exactly like hard liquor but what are they really?

Shoppers would expect to see those mini-bottles at ABC liquor stores. However, they won't be found there ... at least not yet.

They're currently just being sold at gas stations. Also, it's not really liquor.

An entire display set up next to the cashier at one local gas station showcases names like Hobble Creek, Stroyski or Flash Point.

They're names one would typically associate with bourbon, vodka or Fireball. Well, they're not.

All one has to do is read the small print on the label and they'll see it's actually flavored grape wine.

Each one is 16 percent alcohol by volume and 32 proof, and sold in the same stores one would find beer and wine.

There were also bottles that look like extra dry gin, tequila and spiced rum sold in handles for around $11.

One liquor store owner said he hadn't seen or heard of the drinks until a WMBF News reporter walked in with the bottles

"Eventually those people are going to try and buy that particular item and find out they are either disappointed or it doesn't meet their expectations," said Chris Bianco, owner of Gray Man Spirits in The Market Common. "I think that's sad for both the product and I think it's sad for the institution selling them."

"It's horrible and doesn't taste like alcohol," said Myrtle Beach resident Jay Gray after taking a sip.

For 99 cents, is it worth it?

"I would question the quality based on the price, but it's also not worth the inexpensive price either," Gray said.

Since the products don't have more than 16 percent alcohol by volume, they can be bought seven days a week, including Sundays, and after the liquor stores close at 7 p.m.

"The labeling is a bit of a concern, because it's obvious it's trying to copy known brands," Bianco said.

It's bottled by the Maine-based Brookstone distilling company, according to the label. The company that appears to own that distillery is Sazerac, which, according to its website, produces many well-known brands including Fireball, Southern Comfort and Firefly. The latter has a distillery right here in South Carolina.

According to South Carolina law relating to alcohol sales, anything more than 16 percent alcohol by volume has to be sold in liquor stores or licensed to sell establishments.

So right now, these "liquors" may not be what you get, but it's all legal.

"Quite honestly there's no real reason for us to compete with gas stations at this point when we have the real thing, which is what this is trying to imitate," Bianco said.

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