No sign of missing $26K scotch a year after LCBO theft

A year has passed since someone absconded with a pricey bottle of Glenfiddich scotch from a liquor store in downtown Toronto, though it appears police have been unable to find the culprit.

Who took it, what happened to it is still unknown - just like in a 1999 Alberta case

A report detailing the theft of a 40-year-old Bowmore scotch in Alberta back in 1999. 2:08

Just over a year ago, a man dressed in a Burberry shirt and trench coat strolled into an LCBO store at the base of Cooper Street, near the Toronto waterfront.

During that April 7, 2013 visit, police allege the man "selected" a 50-year-old Glenfiddich Single Malt scotch, along with a bottle of wine.

A 700-millilitre bottle of 50-year-old Glenfiddich single malt scotch was stolen from a Toronto LCBO in April of last year. (Toronto Police Service)

Police allege that he paid for the wine, but left the store without paying for the scotch, which was worth $26,000.

The LCBO reported the theft to police the day after the theft occurred, according to a news release issued last year.

A photo of the suspect was later released, but to date, police have not made an arrest.

Toronto police Det.-Const. Mike Tattersall told CBC News in an email that the information police have gathered so far has not been sufficient to make an arrest or lay a charge in the case.

What has happened to the scotch is unclear.

"I could only speculate on what happened to the bottle at this point," Tattersall said.

Edward Patrick, the president of The Companions of the Quaich, a non-profit, malt-whisky appreciation society, said he found the whole story of the stolen scotch "strange."

The scotch was reported missing from the LCBO store at 2 Cooper St., in Toronto. (Google Maps)

The photo that police released showed a man who didn’t appear to have disguised his identity, Patrick said.

And even if police were to identify that suspect, Patrick said there is no apparent proof that he had the bottle on him.

"I think that bottle’s gone forever, it probably found its way into some collector’s hands," Patrick said in a telephone interview.

Tattersall said that the investigation remains open. Anyone with information is invited to call him at 416-808-5100, or to contact Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477.

Theft prompted LCBO changes

Earlier this year, Lisa Murray, an LCBO spokeswoman, told CBC News in an email that "no staffing changes were made or required" at the store following the theft.

Murray said that the LCBO reviewed its display practices for its pricier products after the theft last year.

The LCBO says it made changes to the way it displays its more valuable products after the theft of the Glenfiddich scotch in Toronto last year.

The organization has since made "several changes to the way these products are displayed, secured and sold," though Murray declined provide specific details on those changes.

The LCBO’s website indicates that there is a $1-billion "illegal alcohol market" in Ontario.

Patrick said "there’s certainly a market" for someone to sell such a rare bottle of scotch.

But the question is whether the reward would be worth the risk for a would-be thief.

"A hell of a risk to take for $26,000," Patrick said, in reference to the still-missing Glenfiddich bottle.

The bottle of Bowmore

In any case, there are some people out there who are willing to swipe a scotch with at least five digits to the left of the decimal place on its price tag.

Back in the early hours of Jan. 1, 1999, someone took a bottle of Bowmore Single Malt, priced at nearly $12,000, from an Edmonton liquor store.

The image above shows the exterior of the Chateau Louis liquor store back in early 1999, days after a valuable bottle of Bowmore scotch was stolen. (CBC)

The scotch was distilled on the Scottish island of Islay in 1955. By 1999, there were only about 300 such bottles in the world, according to a report that CBC News filed after the theft. (Readers can click on the video at the top of this page to see that report again.)

Morrison Bowmore Distillers would offer a free trip to Scotland and a taste of the Bowmore to anyone who returned the missing bottle.

One of the store's owners also made a plea for the bottle's safe return.

"Give it back, we’d like to see it back intact, hopefully," Don Koziak said at the time.

A 40-year-old bottle of Bowmore Single Malt scotch, which looked like the one shown in the image above, was stolen from an Edmonton liquor store in the early hours of Jan. 1, 1999. (CBC)

Fifteen years later, Koziak told CBC News in a telephone interview that the bottle never turned up.

Koziak thinks that someone may have stolen the bottle at the behest of someone else, but ended up being unable to unload it because of the media attention the story drew.

The Bowmore incident led the liquor store to change its practices, like in the Toronto theft last year.

"We’ve had bottles like that subsequently, but we don’t generally put them out for display anymore," said Koziak.

He thinks the New Year’s theft will be solved at some point in the future, though. The person who broke into the store left some blood at the scene, which Koziak said the police took a sample of as evidence.