Scientists create a ‘fake tongue’ to taste-test for knock-off whisky

Data pix.

A report out last year found more than a third of rare and collectible Scotch whiskies were fake. Engineers in Scotland have created new technology to taste the difference.

The demand for high-end whisky is increasing in the United States and around the world. But with the rise of this lucrative spirit comes the knockoffs. Now, Scottish scientists hope to separate the real deal from the counterfeit. Researchers are using what they call an artificial tongue that has over 2 million taste buds. It uses tiny slices of gold and aluminium coated with chemicals that react differently when they come in contact with whisky.

Dr. Alasdair Clark is a biochemical engineering lecturer at the University of Glasgow. He says, "Whether that's a production quality issue or whether that's an international market that's selling counterfeit versions of their product, we would be able to detect those changes." The high-tech tongue can discern between a variety of single malts 99 percent of the time - even the same scotch at various ages.

For now the tongue only has a taste for whisky, but creators are aiming to expand its palate. "You could use it for perfumes, you could use it for looking for poisons, you could use it in river beds for looking at changes in the composition of the river," Dr. Clark says.

The tongue is still in the experimental stage and it'll be awhile before you find it at your local bar. The U.S. is the largest importer of Scotch whisky, hitting over $1 billion last year.

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