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I've tasted that $26,000 bottle of Scotch. It's not worth a prison term

A suspect is captured on a surveillance video in a Toronto liquor store where police say he walked out with a $26,000 bottle of 50-year-old Glenfiddich scotch.

It costs $26,000, smells like angel's cologne and has a finish longer than a prison sentence. Or so one shoplifting suspect must have been hoping as he allegedly strolled out of a Liquor Control Board of Ontario store with a rare bottle of 50-year-old Glenfiddich Scotch whisky under his trench coat.

The April 7 theft has left LCBO officials scratching their heads over how a precious bottle kept in a locked display case at a downtown Toronto store slipped past hard-nosed cashiers with a reputation for coldly staring down minors. Toronto police have circulated a security-camera photo of the suspect in an attempt to crowd-source the man's identity. The investigation continues.

But for the curious public, the embarrassing episode raises an inevitable question: Can a bottle of distilled barley really be worth the price of a Honda Accord?

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I happened to sample that Scotch a couple of years ago in the company of Ian Millar, Glenfiddich's global ambassador, and would say this to the thief: Dumb move. It is sublime, yes, still gloriously fruity after a half-century in oak casks and unusually, blissfully smoky for a Glenfiddich single malt. Delicious stuff. Worth time behind bars? Not unless we're talking bars with wood panelling, shot glasses and comfortable stools.

"I've tasted a lot of whisky and that one is quite memorable," said Davin de Kergommeaux, an Ottawa-based spirits expert, who also managed to score a rare sip. "It was creamy, fruity and big, and you could taste the good wood notes with none of the bitterness you might expect of a whisky that old."

De Kergommeaux agrees with me on the value question, though. "I loved that whisky, but would not even dream of spending that kind of money. I open and drink all my bottles and I would rarely pay more than a couple of hundred dollars for a bottle."

William Grant & Sons, which owns the Glenfiddich brand, declined to issue a statement on the matter.

The Toronto heist is the latest in a spate of Grand Theft Whisky jobs that have underscored the deep passions of (criminally inclined) connoisseurs – or the profit motives of outlaws seeking to turn liquid gold into hard cash.

The Nashville City Paper reported that three weeks ago, a Georgia man was indicted on federal charges of commandeering – and later crashing – a tractor-trailer containing some fine-tasting cargo: 3,570 cases of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey.

Last month, police in Scottdale, Pa., reportedly charged a man with receiving stolen property after more than 45 bottles of century-old Pennsylvania rye whisky called Old Farm were drained from a collection sitting below a mansion. The suspect had been renting an apartment in the mansion's basement. Value of the missing stash: $102,400 (U.S.).

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And in 1999, a culprit made off with a $12,000 bottle of Bowmore Scotch from Edmonton's Chateau Louis liquor store. That thief even had the temerity to offer the bottle back to the store for $4,000, threatening otherwise to auction it off to the highest bidder.

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