Here’s Johnny, aged briefly in plastic in Dos Ríos

Sometimes that shot of Johnny Walker just doesn’t taste right. Some expats probably will blame their own mood or perhaps the lingering effects of a snack or dinner.

Then there is the possibility that the bottle is not really Johnny Walker despite what the label says.

There is, of course, the bartender’s old trick of refilling bottles of top-shelf alcoholic beverages with less expensive brands. That’s why many of the premium brand bottles have internal plastic security stoppers to prevent refilling.

A.M. Costa Rica reporters have been looking into suspicious alcohol for at least five years. The advertising staff gave liter bottles of Johnny Walker scotch to customers one Christmas. The boxes of bottles came from a reputable retail outlet.

But once the bottles were opened, the Johnny Walker just did not taste right. The newspaper staff has been collecting complaints since then from readers, but without analyses from foreign laboratories there was little that could be published.

Now the veil has been ripped for the country’s fake alcohol racket.

Tax officials and members of a host of law enforcement agencies raided four warehouses in San Francisco de Dos Ríos Tuesday and found an alcohol mixing and bottling plant.

The raiding parties found legitimate bottles of well-known brands, probably from the Deposito Libre in Golfito or from some smuggler’s truck. But they also found 20,000 liters of bulk alcohol, 15,790 bottles of adulterated liquor, 36,000 empty bottles and 146 rolls of counterfeit labels of top brands.

They also found 131,000 of those plastic security devices.

The operation appears to have been in the business of mixing top-shelf alcohol with much cheaper liquids, bottling the result and passing it off as genuine. And the cheap counterfeit alcohol easily entered the legitimate wholesale stream to end up on the shelves of retailers and in local bars and restaurants.

The Policía de Control Fiscal said they had received a tip about the operation. Participating were prosecutors from the Ministerio Público, Judicial Investigating Organization agents, members of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad and workers from the Ministerio de Salud and the Fabrica Nacional de Licores, the state monopoly.

As is usually the case with police raids, no suspects were there.

This was a major strike at the fake alcohol racket that markets top-shelf fakes. In the past a few bootleggers have been raided. They usually are small operations turning out mislabeled guaro.

What bootleggers lacked in sanitation, they made up for in creativity.

What bootleggers lacked in sanitation, they made up for in creativity.

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