Today’s Solutions: June 26, 2022

Unless you are a whisky enthusiast, it’s pretty hard to pick out a great whisky purely from the smell. Most people rely on the drink’s label to tell the good from the bad or the ugly. The alcoholic beverage is one of the most popular worldwide, and with some labels charging hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars for a bottle, there’s a big market for fraudulent copies.

This is unfair to the companies that produce authentic whisky. They’re missing out on revenue, and their reputation could suffer. Plus, it may be dangerous for the consumer, with reports of nausea, blindness, or even death after ingesting counterfeit alcohol.

How can fraudulent whiskies be recognized?

To combat this, scientists from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) designed an electronic nose (e-nose), named NOS.E. In less than four minutes, the technology can differentiate between distinct regions of origin with 100 percent accuracy. NOS.E can identify brand names with 96.15 percent accuracy and style with 92.31 percent accuracy. The experiment used samples of three blended malts and three single origins, including labels like Jonnie Walker, Macallan, and Chivas Regal.

“Up until now, detecting the differences between whiskies has required either a trained whisky connoisseur, who might still get it wrong, or complex and time-consuming chemical analysis by scientists in a lab”, said Professor Steven Su who led the project.

He continued: “So to have a rapid, easy to use, real-time assessment of whisky to identify the quality, and uncover any adulteration or fraud, could be very beneficial for both high-end wholesalers and purchasers.”

How do e-noses work?

NOS.E mimics the human olfactory system, the interconnected system between our nose and brain that enables us to smell. Using multiple gas sensors, the e-nose can detect particular chemicals that distinguish an odor. The sensors then feed the info of which molecules it has detected into a computer to analyze and assign a whisky to the unique odor profile.

There are a multitude of e-nose applications

Researchers have been exploring potential new avenues for this interesting technology in recent years due to its wide range of applications. For example, e-noses have been useful in the medical field in detecting diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, brain cancer, and MRSA. The food industry has also employed technology to ensure the freshness and safety standards of food products. Catching poachers and traffickers has also been made easier, using e-noses to detect the illegal sale of black rhino horns.

Source study: IEEE Sensors JournalThe Use of Electronic Nose for the Classification of Blended and Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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