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How to Tell Real Scotch Whisky from Fake — Faster

Photonics.com
Jul 2011
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND, July 28, 2011 — Scientists at the University of Strathclyde have developed a method for distinguishing authentic from counterfeit Scotch whisky brands. The group used mid-IR spectrometry with attenuated total reflectance (ATR) to differentiate types of the drink quickly and efficiently — a step up from more time-consuming lab-based methods.

A series of blind tests successfully put the real whisky brand and the fakes in the correct categories. The system could enhance the technology that industry uses to tackle the trade in illicit whisky, which costs huge sums in lost revenue and threatens brand reputation.


Allyson McIntyre and her colleagues determined a fast method of distinguishing authentic Scottish whisky from fake using mid-IR spectrometry with an attenuated total reflectance accessory. (Photo: University of Strathclyde)

“The whisky industry has tools at its disposal for telling authentic and counterfeit whisky brands apart, but many of them involve lab-based analysis, which isn’t always the most convenient system if a sample needs to be identified quickly,” said lead investigator David Littlejohn.

“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,” he added. “It could be of great benefit to an industry which is hugely important to the economy.”

The researchers analyzed 17 samples of blended whisky, looking at the concentration of ethanol in the samples without diluting them and the residue of dried whisky. Their spectroscopy instrument was combined with immersion probes that incorporate novel optical fibers developed by Scottish company Fibre Photonics Ltd., co-sponsor of the research. The levels of ethanol and colorant led Littlejohn and his colleagues to identify correctly the eight authentic and nine counterfeit samples.

The researchers reported their work in Analytica Chimica Acta.

For more information, visit: www.strath.ac.uk  


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