New electronic nose can help detect counterfeit whiskey | Smart News

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In an effort to combat counterfeit whiskeys, researchers in Australia have created a device called NOS.E that can detect and identify the differences by “sniffing” spirits.
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Experienced whiskey drinkers believe they can taste and smell the difference between premium spirits and cheap imitation blends. But even the most sophisticated connoisseurs can still fall prey to fraud, which is becoming a growing problem for the whiskey industry.

Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia hope to change all that with the development of an electronic nose that can identify different styles, brands and origins of whiskey by ‘smelling’ samples.

According to an article published on April 1 in the journal IEEE sensors, the device – called NOS.E – was able to identify the differences between three blended-malt whiskeys and three single malt whiskeys – made by Johnnie Walker, Ardbeg, Chivas Regal and Macallan – in less than four minutes. The prototype was 100% accurate on region, 96.15% on brand name and 92.31% on style for the six whiskeys tested at CEBIT Australia in 2019.

The scientists confirmed the technology’s results using time-of-flight mass spectrometry and two-dimensional gas chromatography, both of which are time-consuming chemical tests that must be performed in the laboratory by a trained professional. NOS.E, on the other hand, is fast and relatively inexpensive, the researchers write in the paper.

NOSE.  electronic nose equipment

Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia have developed an electronic nose called NOS.E that can identify different styles, brands and origins of whiskey by “smelling” samples.

Courtesy of Sydney University of Technology

Created to mimic the human olfactory system, NOS.E has eight gas sensors capable of “sniffing” a flask of whisky. The device evaluates each odor molecule it detects, then sends that data to a computer, where a machine learning algorithm that has been trained to recognize the characteristics of whiskey makes sense of the results.

Electronic nose technologies have previously been used to stop illegal wildlife trafficking, assess odors from sewage treatment plants, identify cancer cells and, recently, to detect Covid-19, among other uses. Going forward, NOS.E not only has the potential to detect fraudulent whiskeys, but also detect expensive counterfeit wines, cognacs and perfumes, according to a statement from the university. It can also be useful for detecting diseases and other medical applications.

Hand pouring a glass of whiskey from a bottle

NOS.E identified differences between three blended-malt whiskeys and three single malt whiskeys in less than four minutes

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As Clay Risen wrote for the New York Times in January, whiskey is “a counterfeiter’s dream” due to high demand and limited supply. During the coronavirus pandemic, the problem got even worse: as people stayed home to help prevent the spread of the virus, they also started drinking more at home.

To pull off their scams, counterfeiters typically fill expensive liquor bottles with cheap alcohol, then reseal them and resell them to unsuspecting buyers, often for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some fraudulent sellers simply take customers’ money and never send the whiskey – or they send empty bottles instead, as Buffalo Trace Distillery warned in 2021.

Although there are few statistics on the scale of the problem globally, a 2018 study found that a third of rare Scotch whiskeys were fake. And with some rare whiskeys selling for up to $2 million, a device like NOS.E has the potential to save consumers a lot of money and heartache.

“Having a quick, easy-to-use, real-time whiskey assessment to identify quality and uncover any tampering or fraud could be very beneficial for wholesalers and high-end buyers,” Steven Su, a biomedical engineer and one of co-authors of the document, said in the statement.

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