Inside a dunnage warehouse of Highland Park whisky distillery. A new type of artificial tongue would help detect counterfeit whiskies.

Enlarge / Inside a dunnage warehouse of Highland Park whisky distillery. A new type of artificial tongue would help detect counterfeit whiskies. (credit: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Image)

Scientists at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have developed an artificial tongue capable of distinguishing between different brands of whisky, a potentially useful tool to combat counterfeit whiskeys on the international market. The researchers describe their device in a new paper in Nanoscale.

There is an exploding demand for expensive rare whiskies, so naturally there has been a corresponding increase in the number of counterfeit bottles infiltrating the market. A study last year subjected 55 randomly selected bottles from auctions, private collectors, and retailers to radiocarbon dating and found that 21 of them were either outright fakes or not distilled in the year claimed on the label.

Ten of those fakes were supposed to be single-malt scotches from 1900 or earlier, prompting Rare Whisky 101 cofounder David Robertson to publicly declare, "It is our genuine belief that every purported pre-1900 bottle should be assumed fake until proven genuine, certainly if the bottle claims to be a single malt Scotch whisky." There's also an influx of counterfeit cheaper whiskies seeping into the markets, which could pose an even greater challenge, albeit less of a headline-grabbing one.

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