Bootleg whisky shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. Any time you have something of value, you’ll have fraudsters and thieves try to counterfeit it in order to make a quick buck. This is especially true if it’s a scotch you’ve never had (if I see a whisky I’ve never tried on the menu, chances are I’ll get it). If someone gives you a Glenlivet 12 when you ordered a Glenlivet 18, chances are you wouldn’t know if you never tried the 18 before (and especially if you had a few other beverages). Seasoned veterans will note the differences because the two are very different but probably wouldn’t complain about it because, let’s be honest, who expects a restaurant to scam them like that?
What’s scary is when a place substitutes a completely different counterfeit spirit made with grain alcohol or, in some scary cases, rubbing alcohol. In those cases, you’re talking danger, life threatening, blinding differences. So it’s great that Scottish scientists have discovered a way to use lasers to detect fakes.
The method exploits both the fluorescence of the whisky and also what is known as the Raman signature of the whisky – this is when light scatters but shifts slightly in energy due to interaction with the molecules in the sample.
The latest study now shows this elegant technique is highly sensitive and can be used to detect trace toxic additives such as methanol at concentrations of less than 1 per cent by volume.
It’s amazing they can detect the exact brand, as long as it’s in the database, but more importantly they can detect trace amounts of toxic additives like methanol. They can do it instantaneously too, you don’t need to send it off to a lab and wait a week for results.
I’m glad someone is working on this and hopefully this fake spirits thing can get solved pretty quickly.