Artificial whisky taster has the palate of a connoisseur | New Scientist

By Timothy RevellAfter robots take your job, they could drink your whisky too. A synthetic tongue can pick out different qualities in whiskies, such as their brand, age and country of origin.“We can use this to detect fake whiskies,” says Uwe Bunz at Heidelberg University, Germany. “If you buy a crate of expensive whiskies, you can test if they are actually what you think they are.”Existing analysis techniques use mass spectroscopy to identify the chemical composition of a whisky. Bunz’s synthetic tongue instead uses 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. Overall, the process is quicker and cheaper than many of the existing methods.Testing the dyes on 33 different whiskies, Bunz and his colleagues found that their approach could accurately tell them apart.Distinguishing distillationsDistillations from Scotland looked different to those from Ireland or the US, and blended whiskies had a different fingerprint to single malts. The dyes also distinguished between whiskies that had been aged for different lengths of time.Unlike mass spectroscopy, the dyes cannot detect small quantities of the substances in whiskies – such as traces of the toxins that are sometimes present. But 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 whisky are the same.Researchers examine glowing dyesThe dyes indicate the whisky’s flavour profileSebastian Hahn.jpgFor a real taste test, however, the synthetic tongue needs to try out more whiskies, says Leonardo Ciaccheri at the Italian National Research Council.For example, the researchers showed that they can tell a Bowmore from a Poit Dhubh, but that may not be enough, he says: “One is a single malt and the other is blended.” Ciaccheri suggests they should try both single malt and blended whiskies from the same distillery.Next, Bunz and his colleagues want to test the tongue on red wine. “I’ve now got over 30 different expensive whiskies at home and I’m not even a whisky drinker,” says Bunz. “Red wine is more my drink.”Journal reference: Chem, DOI: 10.1016/j.chempr.2017.04.008S2451-9294(17)30174-2More on these topics: alcoholchemistry food and drink Download Buy In Print Subscribe

Source: Artificial whisky taster has the palate of a connoisseur | New Scientist

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