Passions of the Tongue: Meet the Artificial Whisky Taster
Whisky connoisseurs and tasting experts are often faced with the difficulty of discerning subtleties of flavor and taste, when drinking new brews with deceptively similar palates. When purchasing a brew of a proud tradition (and an equally exorbitant fee), it is wise to rely on a mechanism that ensures absolute accuracy in ascertaining the product’s originality.
Uwe Bunz, a researcher from Heidelberg University in Germany, and his state-of-art invention has come to the rescue of whisky lovers. This synthetic whisky taster tongue is capable of detecting whether a sample of whisky matches the information on its labelling.
“If you buy a crate of expensive whiskies, you can test if they are actually what you think they are,” says Bunz. This new artificial whisky taster can also differentiate between every bottle of whisky based on their age, brand, blend, and country of origin. This innovation makes use of fluorescent, water-soluble dyes. A little whisky is added to each of the fluorescent dyes, the combined solution either shines more brightly or turns dim. By doing this to multiple vials of several dyes, a unique pattern of brightening or dimming appears. A fingerprint of the whisky is formed.
“From fingerprints, you cannot normally deduce what ethnic background you are, or what your height is, or how old you are,” holds Bunz. Once the results are plotted on a graph, the patterns emerge. A clear map emerges, outlining the specific age and blend of a whisky, and beginning to define clear groups.
Researchers have analyzed about 33 American, Scottish, and Irish whiskeys for research so far. The team ran each sample six times, with only a milliliter of whisky. While the plates, and dyes used in the process cost only a few cents, the estimated cost of the machine is around 10,000 euros. Bunz anticipates that this artificial whisky taster will also help detect fake wines, drugs, and juices.
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