In Poland, which depends on Russia for more than 60 percent of its natural gas needs, the national supplier PGNiG reported a 14-percent loss in pressure in the gas pipeline coming in over Ukraine. MOL, the country’s national wholesaler, said households would not be immediately threatened but urged major industrial consumers to switch to backup oil systems. East European countries with a record of decades of energy dependency on Moscow established during a half century of domination by the former Soviet Union are the most vulnerable to supply disruption. Hungary reported gas supplies down by 40 percent on Monday, after Russia’s OAO Gazprom cut deliveries to neighboring Ukraine, which acts as a transit country for most of Russia’s gas consignment to Europe Russian gas amounts to about 80 percent of Hungary’s needs. Russia took over the rotating presidency of the Group of Eight most wealthy nations on Sunday, with President Vladimir Putin looking to convert his country’s energy wealth into political influence. With the 25-nation European Union counting on Russia for a quarter of its natural gas needs mostly through Ukraine concern rose that a prolonged standoff could spell severe problems.
The German government urged Russia and Ukraine to compromise quickly in order to resolve their dispute over natural gas deliveries. Gas supplies fell sharply Monday to some European countries in the fallout of Moscow’s pricing dispute with Ukraine. Officials in some nations urged energy-hungry industries to switch to oil while consumer groups elsewhere braced for price hikes. Hungary, Poland and Austria all reported that gas piped to them from Russia through Ukraine had slowed down by between 14 and 40 percent.
Gas prices rose marginally on Monday, although there was little to indicate the dispute between Russia and Ukraine was affecting prices. “There are undoubtedly still fakes on the market and these are being aimed at collectors, at the very top end of whisky fanatics looking to get their hands on bottles from particular distilleries.”Mr Broom, who has spent the past five years investigating the forgery industry, believes that two or three well-organised gangs were behind the making of a few large batches of forgeries in Italy about 10 years ago and that these are now being released on to the market.In recent months experts have identified a steady stream of fake bottles covering distilleries including Hazelburn, Arran and Laphroaig which have been offered on eBay by sellers from Britain, Italy, Holland, Germany and Taiwan.. David Broom, a whisky specialist and writer, who was among the first to voice concerns over the Macallan collection, said forgeries had become a problem and that forgeries were still being offered on eBay.
“Somebody was advertising some 20 suspicious bottles on eBay the other week but withdrew them after I wrote asking for proof of where they came from,” said Mr Broom. But when the contents of the bottles were tested it was discovered that in many cases the whisky had been manufactured after 1945 and in some cases as recently as the last decade.For whisky aficionados the discovery was heralded as a wake-up call that sophisticated forgeries posed a problem for even the most expert collector. With prices ranging from £30 for a miniature to tens of thousand of pounds for a an antique malt, criminals know there is money to be made.Earlier this year, it was revealed that several rare bottles bought by the Macallan distiller, one of Scotland’s most respected producers, in an attempt to build up an antique collection of its own whisky, turned out to be forgeries. Tests on many of the bottles and even the paper on which the labels were printed appeared to confirm that the purchases were authentic. What’s interesting is the battle in the market place for these others products.”But the fascination with Scottish malt remains strong and still offers opportunities for the counterfeiters who creating replicas of rare old bottles of whisky and sell them to unwary collectors. One company, Hendrick’s, has started producing a premium gin made with extracts of cucumber and rose petal.Billy Mitchell, manager of the Cameron Brig distillery in Fife, which has transformed itself from a small-scale malt distillery to the largest white spirit producer in Scotland, said: “Whisky volumes in the UK have remained fairly static. Brands with trendy names such as “The Smooth Sweeter One”, “Hedonism” or “Monkey Shoulder” have captured the taste buds of younger drinkers.Dominic Roskrow, editor of Whisky Magazine, said: “Globalisation means many drinks brands have become international and you can walk into any bar in the world and order a Guinness or a Heineken – people have got a bit bored with that.”Younger drinkers, affluent 20 to 30-year-olds with disposable incomes have turned to single malts.”But they don’t want to buy into the really traditional, boring old-man image of whisky so the industry has started to reflect that.”At the same time, Scottish distillers have been diversifying into white spirits such as vodka, gin and rum.