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.
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.
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.