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"Uh, I'll have a whiskey for main course, and I'll follow that with a whiskey for pudding."
November 8, 2011 11:50 AM   Subscribe

"Using the power of light, we have adapted our technology to address a problem related to an industry which is a crucial part of Scottish culture and economy." St Andrews University researchers have claimed they can work out a whisky's brand, age and cask by using a ray of light the size of a human hair.
posted by Fizz (21 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nevermind this fancy schamncy technology. As a professional in the quality assurance industry, I would gladly donate my time, and will give my personal stamp of authenticity to each and every whisky I taste while in the service of the industry.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:54 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Photons have sizes?
posted by Trurl at 11:54 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I volunteer to verify the results in person. I will have to test very, very carefully to make sure the machine is telling the truth.
posted by Artw at 11:58 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not until the Scots get their hands on pants technology.
posted by dr_dank at 12:05 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's the paper. I wouldn't call it "readable" exactly but there are some neat graphs towards the end that show there's a measurable chemical distinction between different years of Glenfiddich and even different cask types of Glenmorangie, but oddly enough the "Links" and "Peat" versions of Bruichladdich are indistinguishable.
posted by theodolite at 12:07 PM on November 8, 2011


the abstract of the original paper:
Standardization and quality monitoring of alcoholic beverages is an important issue in the liquor production industry. Various spectroscopic techniques have proved useful for tackling this problem. An ideal sensing device for alcoholic beverages should be able to detect the quality of alcohol with a small amount of sample at a low acquisition time using a portable and easy to use device. We propose the use of near infra-red spectroscopy on an optofluidic chip for quality monitoring of single malt Scotch whisky. This is chip upon which we have previously realized waveguide confined Raman spectroscopy. Analysis on this alignment-free, portable chip may be performed in only 2 seconds with a sample volume of only 20 ┬Ál. Using a partial least square (PLS) calibration, we demonstrate that the alcohol content in the beverage may be predicted to within a 1% prediction error. Principal component analysis (PCA) was employed for successful classification of whiskies based upon their age, type and cask. The prospect of implementing an optofluidic analogue of a conventional fiber based spectroscopic probe allows a rapid analysis of alcoholic beverages with dramatically reduced sample volumes.
posted by bonehead at 12:08 PM on November 8, 2011


Any reason "a ray of light the size of a human hair" has been (apparently) deemed more impressive that "laser"?
posted by maryr at 12:20 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


No true Scotsman would trust a laser to judge the contents of a whiskey barrel.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:34 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hair of the laserdog?
posted by NMcCoy at 12:36 PM on November 8, 2011


Laser whiskey
posted by Artw at 12:40 PM on November 8, 2011


Hopefully, this will ultimately reduce the price of whisky by allowing counterfeiters to more easily produce identical whiskies.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:41 PM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


The research, which has been patented, was carried out by physicists Praveen Ashok, Kishan Dholakia and Bavishna Praveen.
I can't imagine how impossibly frustrating it would be to work in a place where your nearest colleague had the same (very unusual) last name as your (very unusual) first name.

That said, whiskey drinking is not really a part of the culture in the region of Scotland where St Andrews is located (any more than it is, say, in America; Jack Daniels is still the most popular whiskey in that, and most other parts of Scotland).
posted by schmod at 12:47 PM on November 8, 2011


"a ray of light the size of a human hair"


In today's other science news, skygazers look to the heavens as a giant rock is expected to pass nearby.
posted by gimli at 12:53 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


A ray of light the size of a human hair has a romantic Robert Burns thing going for it while lasers were passe by the late nineties.

What their not really saying here is that NIRS and Raman are not a new technology and hand held units have been around for a while. So this is more of a analytical technology development rather than pure science. This only seems diminishing if you have never had to work in 96 individual vials with a single channel pipette rather than using a microtiter plate. You can simulate the experience by slamming your wrist in a car door a few times while trying to play a Simon like memory game.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:05 PM on November 8, 2011


they can work out a whisky's brand, age and cask by using a ray of light the size of a human hair.

Heck, our local liquor store has one that can determine the market price of any bottle from any shelf.
posted by hal9k at 1:07 PM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


PCA has been used in forensics work for a long time, though powerful lasers rays of light the size of a human hair small enough to do Raman in hand-held devices are only a few years old.

The innovation here the physical construction of the sample cell and the demonstration of discriminating power for whisky analysis. PCA doesn't help if the analytical technique can't resolve enough covariance in the data to produce separation of sample classes. The use of what's normally considered noise, the fluorescence spectrum underlying the Raman lines, is interesting. It's not earth-shattering, but it's rather elegant, turning what most consider to be noise to be removed as background into useful signal.
posted by bonehead at 2:04 PM on November 8, 2011


Now that they've got the whiskey ID-problem figured out, maybe they could work on honey.

But I can see why they chose whiskey [hiccup] first.
posted by webhund at 2:17 PM on November 8, 2011


schmod: That said, whiskey drinking is not really a part of the culture in the region of Scotland where St Andrews is located (any more than it is, say, in America; Jack Daniels is still the most popular whiskey in that, and most other parts of Scotland).

Is this about the extraneous "e" in "whiskey"? Isn't bourbon a whiskey? Because I'd guess Fifers drink a lot more cheap bourbon than JD. I'd say they drink more Jameson than bourbon anyway.
posted by GeckoDundee at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2011


Loch Ness monsters ... with effing LASERS on their FOREHEADS
posted by zomg at 3:41 PM on November 8, 2011


Not until the Scots get their hands on pants technology.

HEED! PANTS! NOW!
posted by sapere aude at 3:58 PM on November 8, 2011


So... they're using a spectrometer to do things you use a spectrometer for. The only surprising part here is that they're using a laser instead of an electron beam like in a mass spec.
posted by atbash at 9:01 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


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