New Brunswick

Whisky theft giving NB Liquor an $8,700 headache

NB Liquor is losing thousands of dollars annually, thanks to thieves who are snatching high-end bottles of whisky.

Crown corporation lost more than $8,700 due to whisky theft since 2014

Theft of whisky is responsible for nearly a third of NB Liquor's losses due to theft since 2014. (Tourism PEI)

NB Liquor has lost thousands of dollars over the past two years, thanks to thieves who are snatching high-end bottles of whisky.

A CBC analysis of booze swiped from NB Liquor since the beginning of 2014 reveals that vodka goes missing from store shelves most often.

But it's a growing taste for whisky that is costing the liquor corporation — and consumers — big cash.

Since 2014, NB Liquor has recorded an $8,767.16 loss on stolen whisky.

That's nearly a third of the liquor corporation's total losses due to theft over the past two years.

Johanne McInnis, a spirits writer and founder of the Whisky Lassie blog, said people are likely taking the bottles with the intent of reselling them.

"There's definitely a market out there for people who would be looking for a good buy," she said.

McInnis has watched southern New Brunswick's taste for whisky flourish over the last few years, thanks in part to a successful whisky festival and following in Fredericton.

That has driven up the price of high-end whisky in New Brunswick, which was once the cheapest place in Canada to buy the spirit, according to McInnis.

She fears those prices could rise even higher if bottles keep disappearing from NB Liquor's shelves.

"If product is walking out the door, then somebody somewhere down the line, I'm assuming, would have to pay for that," McInnis said.

No one from NB Liquor was available for an interview about its theft data, which was obtained through access to information.

The data doesn't include thefts from agency stores.

$500 bottle never recovered

Spirits writer Johanne McInnis was surprised to hear the high-end brands of whisky stolen from NB Liquor outlets. (CBC)

The priciest whisky theft happened at Fredericton's Prospect Street store on March 3 of this year, costing the liquor corporation $1,300.

Thieves took four bottles of Octomore 7.1, valued at a total of $916. They also took two bottles of Spring Bank 18, a loss worth $384. None of the products were recovered.

On Christmas Eve in 2014, a single bottle of Macallan 21-year-old scotch disappeared from the shelves of the Caraquet liquor store. It was valued at $500.

McInnis was surprised to see the brands targeted by thieves. Few people other than whisky enthusiasts would know the value of an Octomore 7.1, she said.

"It kind of makes you wonder if maybe they knew the value of what they were taking or they were just looking at the dollar value itself."

She suggested NB Liquor give more protection to premium bottles inside stores.

In Ontario, she said premium whisky is kept under lock and key. In the United States, stores will often keep a display bottle on shelves, so customers have to ask to buy a bottle.

"It kind of demonstrates to me that people are starting to pay attention to that particular category," she said.

"It should open ANBL's eyes with regard to ensuring their high-end premium spirits are either kept behind closed doors or locked cabinets."

Losses amount to more than $26K

NB Liquor has recorded losses of more than $26,000 due to stolen liquor since 2014. (CBC)

The numbers show that NB Liquor has registered a loss of more than $26,000 due to theft since 2014.

After whisky and vodka, rum was the most commonly stolen alcohol.

Fredericton's York Street store registered the largest loss from theft, losing a total of $4,313.02.

Lower-cost whisky is a big attraction, too. Twenty-two bottles of Fireball and 25 bottles of Crown Royal were pilfered from store shelves during the two-year period.

And thieves didn't stop at liquor.

Four promotional scarves were stolen from Fredericton's Brookside Mall store in April 2016. Three months earlier, someone swiped a T-shirt from the NB Liquor outlet in Perth-Andover.

In Nova Scotia, the liquor corporation lost $40,580 due to liquor theft last year.

The tastes of Nova Scotia liquor thieves are a bit different, with Captain Morgan rum — 240 bottles, to be precise — being the biggest draw, likely due to the province's sea-faring, rum-running history.

"Nova Scotia has a super long history and romance with rum," McInnis said.

Thieves also took 55 cases of Budweiser lager, while New Brunswick thieves largely stayed away from bulky packs of beer.

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