This Artificial Tongue Could Stop Counterfeit Whisky

The device identifies specific Scotch brands with 99 percent accuracy

An artificial tongue was able to ID different varieties of Scotch
Dylan de Jonge / Unsplash

Turns out it takes a discerning tongue to properly identify Scotch.

A metal tongue.

In an on-going effort to identify and weed out counterfeit whisky, engineers from the Scottish universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde invented an artificial “tongue” of gold and aluminum that was able to identify samples from leading Scotch producers (Glenfiddich, Glen Marnoch, Laphroaig) with a 99 percent accuracy.

As the study in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Nanoscale notes, the bimetallic nanoplasmonic “tongue” — consisting of sub-microscopic slices of two metals in a pattern of “tastebuds” — was submerged in different kinds of whisky and the scientists measure how it absorbed light, according to a report by CNN.

While the researchers noted the device could have a wide range of uses, including food safety testing and quality control, at least one whisky expert gave a lashing to the metal tongue’s abilities.

“Flavor assessment in the whisky industry is done by smell, taste and texture,” sniffed Charles MacLean, a Master of the Quaich (a Scotch industry accolade). “Of all the senses employed, smell is the most important.”

Still, given the device’s potential wide range of uses, and the abundance of counterfeit whisky making the rounds, having an extra tongue around couldn’t hurt. With a human assist, of course.

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