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View Full Version : Nuclear Testing to identify fake vintage whiskey



DowntownD
05-04-2009, 17:21
See the article here (http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/05/04/1547215)...

"Industry experts claim the market for vintage whiskey has been flooded with fakes that purport to be several hundred years old but instead contain worthless spirit made just a few years ago. Now researchers at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit have developed a method that can pinpoint the date a whiskey was made by detecting traces of radioactive particles created by nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/5261586/Nuclear-bomb-tests-help-to-identify-fake-whisky.html)."

"It is easy to tell if whiskey is fake as if it has been produced since the middle of the twentieth century, it has a very distinctive signature," says Dr. Tom Higham, deputy director of the facility. Nuclear bomb testing in the 1950s saw levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere rise around the world so the amount of isotope absorbed by living organisms since this time has been artificially elevated."

"Whiskey extracted from antique bottles is sent to the laboratory where scientists burn the liquid and bombard the resulting gas with electrically charged particles so they can measure the carbon-14 in the sample. In one recent case, a bottle of 1856 Macallan Rare Reserve was withdrawn from auction at Christies (http://www.whiskymag.com/magazine/issue70/12008462.html), where it was expected to sell for up to 20,000, after the scientists found it had actually been produced in 1950. "So far there have probably been more fakes among the samples we've tested than real examples of old whiskey," says Higham.'"

though more about Scotch than Bourbon, kind of interesting I think.

-D

DeanSheen
05-04-2009, 18:00
Nice find. A fake 30k bottle is no laughing matter.

independant
05-04-2009, 18:59
Kind of a nub question but how to they get the sample to test? If they opened the bottle wouldn't that devalue it.

barturtle
05-04-2009, 19:02
I know that in the world of vintage wine, recorking isn't uncommon.

But I would guess that a whiskey that is proven to be as old as you say it is, is likely to be worth a lot more opened than one that is suspect and unopened.

I do believe I've seen something on testing of vintage wines, where they used a thin needle to go through the cork and withdraw an amount for testing, with the cork still being intact afterwords.

DowntownD
05-04-2009, 19:46
I think the article says they "extract" some for testing, which I read as different from 'opening it', though I don't think they explain how. A needle is what came to mind to me, though it's just a WAG.

TNbourbon
05-04-2009, 19:57
...I would guess that a whiskey that is proven to be as old as you say it is, is likely to be worth a lot more opened...
Worth a lot more to me that way!:grin:

independant
05-04-2009, 21:40
A needle is what came to mind to me, though it's just a WAG.

I was thinking the same thing but I also thought that corks that old were pretty sure to be dryed out. So if a needle was sent down through it would the cork reseal itself.