Simplified test developed for identifying fake whiskey


July 27, 2011

A new system for detecting counterfeit whiskey is simpler and less costly than traditional methods (Photo: Chris huh)

A new system for detecting counterfeit whiskey is simpler and less costly than traditional methods (Photo: Chris huh)

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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.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

A shot glass would be an excellent plan B for testing.


9/17 of the test group. . .

This is quite cool - not sure if I need it, as a consumer, but would be great for bars or retailers. . .


OMG, 9/17 whiskey bottles are counterfeit?? onsite devices for consumers to find out exactly which bottle is actual whiskey is a very good idea. when can we acquire these devices?

Waiel Jibrail

So what, you are going to open all of your delivered bottles to check for fake hooch, what a pain, they need to tighten up the retailers/wholesalers that are switching out the real for fake liquor

Darrin Goodman

Is it in any way odd that this test, according to the article heading, appears to be for verifying the authenticity of Irish Whiskey, but all of the bottles shown in the picture seem to be Scotch whisky. Whisky - Scotch. Whiskey - Irish.


I\'m relieved to see the testing isn\'t being performed by Rab C Nesbitt! :)

Gerard Gallagher

In my country (Turkey) every month at least ten or more people died cause of drinking fake whiskeys. This development can save a lot of people lifes.

Ahmet Dizioglu

When referring to Scotch, it is spelled \"whisky\" (there is no \'e\' in Scotch whisky)

Jeff Sell

I had fake chivas and had hangover and memory loss for over a month

Akemai Olivia
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