Researcher Creates Artificial Tongue That Can Detect Fake Whiskeys

Identifying the difference between top shelf whiskeys and fake whiskeys.


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Whiskey was first produced in Scotland, where the oldest distillery was licensed in 1775. Since then, Scotch (and other whiskeys) have been popular; the demand for expensive, specialized varieties has increased during the last decades. Today, countless whiskeys of different origin, age, brand, blend status, taste, and price range are available. Under the name of original one, many sellers even sell fake whiskey in order to gain profit.

So, to identify a top shelf whiskeys and fake whiskeys, a researcher from the University of Heidelberg, Uwe Bunz has developed a ‘synthetic tongue’ and it leaves no room for doubt. It can differentiate between whiskeys according to their brand, age, blend and even country of origin with astonishing accuracy!

In real, this artificial tongue is based on conjugated fluorescent polyelectrolytes or green fluorescent proteins (GFPs) fused to supercharged polypeptide chains. It consists of 6 or 7 different receptors — sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami, and hotness.

Bunz explained, “All the 7 receptors able to identify food by differential reactions of those elements. The combination of differential receptors gives you an overall taste impression of what you eat.”

Bunz said, “We can use this to detect fake whiskeys. If you buy a crate of expensive whiskeys, you can test if they are actually what you think they are.”

For the experiment, scientists used a combination of 22 different fluorescent dyes. When mixed with a whisky, the brightness of each dye subtly changes, revealing a specific flavour profile for that drink. After testing it on 33 different whiskeys, scientists found that their approach could accurately tell them apart.

By building up an overall flavour profile in much the same way our tongues do, the approach is good at telling if two bottles of whiskey are the same.

Now, Bunz plan is to create a tongue for red wine but says the applications for this type of solution is endless.

He said, “I’ve now got over 30 different expensive whiskeys at home and I’m not even a whiskey drinker. Red wine is more my drink.”


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