New laser method developed to identify exclusive whiskies

Figures show that counterfeit drinks cost the UK economy more than £200 million in lost revenue each year.

Scientists have developed a technique using lasers to measure the authenticity of exclusive whiskies without removing the cap.

Counterfeit drinks cost the UK economy more than £200 million in lost revenue each year, according to a 2018 study published by the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office.

New research by University of St Andrews scientists has seen the development of a method using lasers which can see through the bottle to analyse the contents.

Scientists previously had to take a sample from the whisky as the glass caused interference with the readings.

Professor Kishan Dholakia, who led the study, said: “I hate it when I have to spare a drop of whisky for validation checks. I’d much rather drink the whole bottle.

“Laser spectroscopy is a powerful tool for characterising the chemical make-up of many materials, but to use it to characterise alcohol in its original container in this simple way is really exciting.”

The team used the method of laser spectroscopy, a process which shines laser light into a substance of interest and the sample scatters the light into different colours.

Colours of the scattered light depend on the chemical make-up of the substance and can be used to identify materials ranging from bacteria, food and drink, through to the paint on sculptures and explosive powders.

The team used a glass element to shape the light to produce a ring of laser light on the bottle surface and a tightly focused spot within the liquid contents.

As the signals from the bottle and liquid are at different positions, a detector can be placed to record only the signal from the liquid, meaning the bottle contents can be assessed without ever opening the bottle.

The research has been published in the Analytical Methods journal and is available online at

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