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Whiskey tastes like warm poison. To be fair, if you add an ice cube to the mix, it tastes like chilly poison. Even my very nice mom, in her infinite wisdom, once described whiskey as “horrible shit.” Nevertheless, those who insist there is a difference between good and bad whiskey will be happy to know that a team of scientists has invented a clever way to determine the various qualities of whiskey, which is still, for all intents and purposes, a poison drink.

In a new study published in Cell, a group of European researchers detail how they created an array of fluorescent solutions nicknamed the “tongue” in order to test 33 whiskeys. The researchers added a drop of whiskey to the solutions—which contain bright polymer dyes—and observed how the liquors changed each solution’s glow. Under a machine called a “plate reader,” which uses fluorescent light, the sensor array could tell apart two seemingly identical whiskeys. It could even separate them based on malt status, age, or country of origin—factors that some people attribute to a whiskey’s overall quality. Thank god these solutions aren’t sentient, because they’d be The Worst.

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“If you have 3, 4, or 5 elements on the tongue, you get 3, 4, or 5 different intensity changes, and these intensity changes form a pattern. And the pattern is unique,” senior co-author Uwe Bunz, an organic chemist at Heidelberg University, said in a statement. “Each single polymer’s response to the whiskey would not be very useful, but if you combine them, they form a really unique pattern.”

The researchers suggest that their technology could be used for other consumers goods, including other kinds of alcohol. Cheers to that.

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[Cell]