Technology Foils Whisky Counterfeiters


Divine nectar.

Is nothing sacred? Some fiends apparently fake Scotch brands. Fortunately, researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland have devised some new methods involving optic fibers for distinguishing between authentic and counterfeit Scotch whisky brands. As R&D Magazine reports

The researchers analysed 17 samples of blended whisky, looking at the concentration of ethanol in the samples without diluting them and the residue of dried whisky. They did so with mid-infrared spectrometry, used with immersion probes that incorporate novel optical fibres developed by Scottish based company Fibre Photonics Ltd who co-sponsored the research. The procedures developed can provide prompt, accurate analysis without the complexity and cost of some other systems.

The levels of ethanol and colourant led them to identify correctly the eight authentic and nine counterfeit samples.

What's next? Fake truffles

NEXT: Reason Writers Around the Internet: Katherine Mangu-Ward Talks Debt, Gays, and Glibertarians at Bloggingheads

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. What’s next? Fake truffles?

    I would invest in that!!!

    1. There’s a fungus among us!

    2. Hey, has anyone attempted an artificial truffle? Or a farm-raised one? Because cheap truffles would be almost as awesome as cheap fusion power.

      1. Re: Pro Libertate,

        Because cheap truffles would be almost as awesome as cheap fusion power.

        I for one believe that cheap truffles are a little more likely than cheap fusion power…. Just a wee more, laddie.

        1. Say, maybe there’s a connection between the two? Are there any fusion researchers in the room?

          1. We are less than a decade away from cheap truffles AND cheap fusion. Give us some more research money.

      2. I don’t care how cheap something is, if it tastes like old socks (which is to say, like a truffle), I ain’t buying it.

        1. What? Maybe you had the Chinese knock-off truffle, because real truffles are sublime.

      3. Some aussies cracked the truffle nut (white tuscan and black perigord) several years ago. They are being farmed with consistency now.

        See Here

        1. A ha! So fusion is just around the corner!

  2. You got yer scotch, diet scotch, caffeine free scotch, cherry scotch, diet caffeine free cherry scotch, scotch classic, scotch zero, scotch with lemon, scotch with lime…

  3. Faking scotch don’t trouble me none, but faking bourbon or Tennessee whiskey would.

    1. Nah, nothing compared to fake tequila. There’s no more vile swill than fake tequila.

      1. Is that legal? Because it shouldn’t be.

    2. Don’t try to bootleg my Old Grand-dad! Unless of course you are an actual Kentucky bootlegger. In which case, may I have a sip of your delicious bourbon?

  4. Wouldn’t the same technology that allows you to test the whisky also in the long run allow you to fake the whisky since you would know what levels of “ethanol and colourant” to add?

    1. Its pretty tough to get the blend right at the molecular level.

      1. See, this is why nanotechnology is important, so I can craft my own booze from the atom up.

        1. Sure. For just 8x the price, I can get you genuine imitation scotch whisky.

        2. If it is identical at the molecular level, then is it really counterfeit?

          1. Wow, man… have you ever wondered if like our whole universe was just like a speck of dirt in the fingernail of a giant. Like, whoa.

          2. A difference that makes no difference is no difference. Like Billy James always said.

          3. “Last night, I came home and realized that everything in my apartment
            had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica. I told this to
            my friend — he said, `Do I know you?'” Steven Wright.

            1. What Gray Ghost said

  5. Big deal. The Irish have been faking Scotch for generations, and nobody cared to notice until now?

    1. The irish were first.

      1. The Scots are simply Irish colonials who displaced (or interbred with) the Picts.

        1. The highland scotts were irish

          1. What were the lowlanders?

            1. picts.

              IIRC, the Gaels moved through England, into Wales, across the sea into Ireland, up to the north of Ireland, and back across the sea to western Scotland. The Gaelic Scots (Irish) stayed mostly distinct from the Pictish Scots in the east of Scotland for an extended period of time.

              But it’s been 2 decades since I was reading about Gaelic Ireland.

            2. “scotti” is what the picts called the irish in the highlands

              1. And the kilt is neither traditional, nor Scottish.

                1. Just because I feel like jumping in on this thread …. Stonehenge was built by a vanished neolithic civilization that was wiped out by copper-smelting immigrants from europe. Recent acheological findings.

                  1. Just because I feel like jumping in on this thread …. Stonehenge was built by a vanished neolithic civilization that was wiped out by copper-smelting immigrants from europe. Recent acheological findings.

                    Evidence from tooth isotopes suggests that the Anglo-Saxon invasion wasn’t much of an invasion. Perhaps it was more about filling a power vacuum left by the retreating Roman empire.

                    Considering how little we know about this I find pronouncements on the fate of the Stonehengeians to be utter horseshit.

                    1. The bronze age people were pre-Anglo-Saxon. I’m referring to ca. 2500 BCE, not 500CE.

                      Basically, the British Isles have been conquored by repeated waves of immigrants who keep wiping out (or interbreeding with) the ones before.

                      Although it’s pretty fucking cool that some stone age people had a sufficiently large and sucessful civilization that they were able to build this huge monument without metal tools.

                    2. The bronze age people were pre-Anglo-Saxon. I’m referring to ca. 2500 BCE, not 500CE.

                      No shit.

                      I’m referring to the fact that the Anglo-Saxon invasion doesn’t seem to have been much of an invasion in terms of the number of people born in what is now Germany and the Netherlands who were buried in Anglo-Saxon graveyards according to isotopic tooth data.

                      If our knowledge of this fairly recent and somewhat documented invasion is so spotty it is pretty idiotic to make judgements on what happened to the people who erected Stonehenge.

                    3. Archeological digs. Pottery fragments.

                      The style of “grooveware” pottery common to the Biritsh Isle at the time stonehenge was erected is associated with bone and stone tools.

                      Later, it is replaced by copper and bronze tools and a different style of pottery that was common to Europe. It’s a pretty standard inference that when the pottery and tool styles change that means that one ethnic group has moved in an displaced another.

                  2. Stonehenge was built by a vanished neolithic civilization that was wiped out by copper-smelting immigrants from europe. Recent acheological findings.

                    What about Woodhenge?

                    1. What about Woodhenge?

                      It’s believed to be part of the same religious complex. Same era and civilization.

                      There’s actually remains a large town of several thousand inhabitents that’s recently been discovered in the areas around the wooden version.

              2. My impression is that these ‘facts’ are extremely nebulous.

                Why would the Irish colonize the highlands first? It is usually the hill people, such as the Basques, who are the hardest to displace.

                1. Hardest and least rewarding. It’s just not worth the effort to fight and occupy mountainous territory, unless they are really fucking with you.

                  1. The romans learned this when they lost an entire legion in one day in scotland…the art of war how does it work?

                2. Look at the map. Northwest Scotland is mountains. South east Scotland is plains (or at least not mountains). So the sea-faring Irish invaded the northwest coast of Scotland and settled in the mountains.

        2. That’s a damned lie, ye heathen!

    2. I don’t think anyone has more scorn for Irish whisky than the Irish. At least that was my experience when visiting the relatives in the old country.

  6. Reminds me of “The Simpsons” episode where Bart went to France as an exchange student, only be made a virtual slave laborer producing cheap, watered-down wine. He escapes and explains his plight to a gendarme, but they don’t seem concerned until he mentions tampering with the wine. Then, sacre bleu!, the troops are called out.

    1. anti-freeze. It was anti-freeze that was criminal.

  7. Nitpick: article mentions blended whisky being tested, but that looks like a single malt in the photo.

    1. Yeah, I was all worried about fake Islay, but the article only mentioned Black Label and Chivas. Whew, dodged a bullet there.

  8. To make fake Scotch:

    1. Take Crown Royal.
    2. Add kerosene.

  9. Thanks again Ron for introducing me to Caol Ila.

    1. Tastes vary, and I love me some of every other distillery on that island, (have yet to try Port Ellen) but Caol Ila tastes like rocket fuel to me.

      More for you, I guess.

  10. It all tastes the same after I mix it with Mountain Dew.

    1. …that right there made me snort Mountain Dew out my nose. True story.

  11. Wait, wouldn’t a connoisseur of fine Scotch Whisky be able to tell the difference by, you know, tasting it?

    Because if you can’t tell the difference…

    1. But by then it’s too late.

  12. Sort of sad that people feel the need to fake scotch when there’s a huge market for genuine Appalachian moonshine and Kentucky/Tennessee Whisky.

    1. You’ve obviously never felt the dent in your wallet after buying a bottle of single malt.

      Where there are luxury goods, there are knockoffs.

  13. OK, as (apparently), the only world-class bagpiper here, it’s important that I weigh in on this.

    My band stays at the University of Strathclyde most years when we go over for the World Pipe Band Championship. And we drink a lot. A LOT. And usually do well in the contest.

    That is all.

  14. Also:

    Glen Morangie
    Glen Fiddich
    The Talisker

    Pretty much in that order. I’m a gin drinker anyway (heresy, I’s the recessive English genes).

    1. Laphroaig

    2. Laphroaig 16.
      Oh, hell, just about any of the top-shelf single malts. Except Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. Don’t like that stuff.

  15. The brewers of bad beer used to be stoned to death. The counterfeiters of scotch should be strapped down and forced to watched as their cock is deli-sliced and fed to their children.

  16. If I can’t taste the difference between, say, Glenlivet and reason-brand whiskey, why am I going to pay the 10x price premium for the brand with a prestigious name? I’m a cheap bastard, thank you very much!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.