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Science Can Now Tell Real Whiskey from Fake

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Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge Allyson McIntyre, a researcher at the University of Strathclyde. - UNIVERSITY OF STRATHCLYDE
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Allyson McIntyre, a researcher at the University of Strathclyde.
In a piece of research that could have come only from Glasgow, chemists at the University of Strathclyde have found new methods of comparing whiskeys that allows them to determine whether what's on the label is really in the bottle or it's a cheaper imitation. Just in case someone's secretly replaced your Macallan 21 with Black Velvet.

Methods already exist to distinguish various whiskey brands, but most of them involve lab-based analysis. Professor David Littlejohn, who led the research, says this new method, "can provide simpler and faster identification" and "could be adapted for devices to use on site, without the need to return samples to a lab."

Glaswegians, rejoice. Science is finally addressing your concerns about the illicit trade in whiskey.

How did they do it? Researchers analyzed 17 samples of blended whiskey, looking at the concentration of ethanol in the samples with mid-infrared spectrometry and immersion probes. The levels of ethanol and colorant led them to identify correctly the eight "authentic" and nine "counterfeit" samples.

The research paper has been published in Analytica Chimica Acta.

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