Simplified test developed for identifying fake whiskey
By Ben Coxworth
July 27, 2011
So, is that really Johnnie Walker Blue that you're drinking, or is it perhaps actually Johnny Woker Bloo? Counterfeit Scotch whiskeys are more common than you might think, with the Scotch Whiskey Association reportedly handling between 60 to 70 active cases of counterfeiting at any one time. While there are lab tests that can identify the fakes, not every bar owner or restaurateur has the time or funds for those. Fortunately for them, scientists from Glasgow's University of Strathclyde have devised a quicker, simpler, less costly system.
The technique involves measuring the mid-infrared light spectrum of the whiskeys, which is done using immersion probes containing special optical fibers. This indicates the amount of ethanol and colorant in the liquor - if those amounts don't match up with the amounts that the genuine whiskey is known to have, then the sampled whiskey is a fake.
In testing the technology, the Strathclyde team analyzed 17 samples of blended whiskey. They were able to successfully identify the eight authentic whiskeys, and the nine counterfeits.
"There's a growing need for methods that can provide simpler and faster identification and we have developed a system which could be adapted for devices to use on site, without the need to return samples to a lab," said project leader Prof. David Littlejohn. "It could be of great benefit to an industry which is hugely important to the economy."
The research has been published in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta.