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New test can detect fake whisky, say scientists

By Helen Glaberson , 28-Jul-2011
Last updated the 02-Aug-2011 at 15:45 GMT

A new “reliable and quick” method has been developed that can distinguish between authentic and imitation Scotch whisky brands, according to scientists at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Published in Analytica Chimica Acta the study involved a series of blind tests that compares whisky samples with known tests for genuine whisky.

The scientists said the system could enhance the technology currently used in the industry that is used to tackle the trade in illicit whisky, which costs huge sums in lost revenue and threatens brand reputation.

Methodology and results

The study examined the ethanol concentration in 17 undiluted samples of whisky and also the residue that is left after the whisky has dried out.

This was done using mid-infrared spectrometry, used with immersion probes that incorporate novel optical fibres, said the scientists.

The researchers said the levels of ethanol and colourant led them to correctly identify the eight authentic and nine counterfeit samples.

Simple and fast

The new system can be adapted for devices to use on site, without the need to return samples to a lab, said Professor David Littlejohn, who led the research.

"There's a growing need for methods that can provide simpler and faster identification,” he said.

"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.”

Financial support for the project was provided by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Fibre Photonics Ltd and WestCHEM, a joint research school formed by the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow.

Source: Analytica Chimica Acta

Detection of counterfeit Scotch whisky samples using mid-infrared spectrometry with an attenuated total reflectance probe incorporating polycrystalline silver halide fibres

Authors: A. McIntyre, M.L. Bilyk, A. Nordon, G. Colquhounb and D. Littlejohn

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