The artificial ‘tongue’ that weeds out fake whiskies

Scientists have devised an "artificial tongue" which can tell a if a prestigious single-malt whisky is really a fake.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow developed tiny "tastebuds" made of alternating squares of aluminium and gold 1 000 times thinner than a human hair.

The metals react when exposed to chemicals – such as the ones in whisky, which differ markedly depending on how long they have been aged and the barrels they are kept in. 

whiskytongue68 - The artificial 'tongue' that weeds out fake whiskies

The researchers found that these metals subtly change colour through various shades of green when a drop of whisky is placed on them, allowing them to weed out newer whiskies marketed as older, more expensive ones.

The "tastebuds" boast more than 99.7% accuracy and produce a result in less than a second. The "tongue" is not yet commercially available but provides hope to those who like a dram, after a study last year found 21 bottles of rare whisky thought to be worth £635 000 were modern fakes.

Researchers using the tongue were able to tell the difference between a millilitre of whisky from bottles of Glenfiddich which had been aged for 12, 15 or 18 years. It also differentiated between a 10-year-old Laphroaig and three types of Glen Marnoch, aged in either sherry, rum or bourbon casks.

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Zhang Wei

The research, published in the journal Nanoscale, comes two years after Chinese tourist Zhang Wei paid £7 600 one of the world’s rarest Scotches from 1878 – only to find it was made in the early seventies.

Experts say as much as £41-million worth of rare whisky on sale could be counterfeited.


Daily Mail

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