Detecting counterfeit whisky
Physicists have figured out a way to determine the authenticity of rare whisky without opening the bottle, by using laser lights.
Why it matters: The demand for rare Scotch whisky has been rising in recent years, but so have reports of counterfeits. The new technology could help determine whether your four-figure single malt is actually rotgut — before you buy.
What's happening: In a recent paper, researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland (obviously) described a method of using spectroscopy on a whisky bottle, as Jennifer Ouellette reported in Ars Technica.
- Scientists can shine a laser light into the whisky bottle, which breaks the light into a spectrum of wavelengths that correspond to different chemical compounds.
- Those chemical compounds can be used to help determine the provenance of the whisky.
- Because a glass bottle can produce a large spectral signal itself, interfering with the results, the researchers shaped the laser light into a ring, which reduced the noise from the bottle.
Of note: The Scotch Whisky Research Institute in Edinburgh (also obviously) is experimenting with portable spectrometers that workers could use to authenticate rare whiskeys.
Background: A 2018 study found a third of vintage Scottish whiskies tested in a lab were outright fakes or not from the year their labels indicated.
The bottom line: And that's why I drink bourbon.