You know what's great? Really good scotch whisky. You know what's not great? Fake scotch whisky. Worry not. Researchers at St. Andrews University have figured out how to test your whisky's authenticity by shooting it with lasers. Mmm, whisky-lasers...
Here's how it works. Researchers put a drop of whisky on a chip the that's about the size of a credit card. They then use a couple of fiber optics (no thicker than human hairs), one of which lights it up, while the other analyzes it. The technique looks at the fluorescence of whisky and the scattering of light when it interacts with various molecules, which is called its Raman signature. They claim to be able to determine the whisky's brand, age, and cask. Pretty incredible if it's true. I wonder how they plan on compiling this database, though. Do they expect distilleries to give them a bottle from every batch? If so, how do I join these guys?
There's good news and bad news here. The good news is that they only need a single drop of whisky in order to determine its authenticity. Waste more than a single droplet of that golden elixer and you'd have me rioting. The bad news, well, you have get a drop out, which means you need to open the bottle. That in itself means it's not going to be much use to us consumers, directly. It's more for distributers or stores who are buying in bulk and want to make sure they're getting a crate of the real McCoy. Those types won't mind sacrificing a bottle for the greater good. On the flip side of the coin, you would have to pry that bottle of Lagavulin out of my cold, dead, drunk hands. Indirectly, though, it benefits consumers who buy from distributors and stores, hopefully ensuring we get what we pay for.
I have no fancy microchips, databases, or fiber optics, but if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go shoot my whisky with some lasers, just for the hell of it. [BBC News]
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