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Getting to the Bottom of Whiskey Authenticity with Spectrometry

In an article published in the journal Foods, researchers analyzed the elemental profile of 205 samples of whiskey to distinguish them according to the parameter of their authenticity using cold vapor-atomic absorption (CVAAS), inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES), and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).

Study: Assessment of the Authenticity of Whisky Samples Based on the Multi-Elemental and Multivariate Analysis. Image Credit: SpockyPo/

Consumers now have access to diverse food products due to the quick expansion of commerce and worldwide product interchange. Today's consumers are much more aware of the authenticity and quality of the food they purchase. A survey carried out more than ten years ago found that up to 82% of consumers used geographical origin as a quality factor when buying food goods. The use of ingredients that endanger the health and lives of customers is one of the many incidents of food adulteration that have been observed.

What is Food Adulteration?

Regarding quality control and the guarantee of food safety, food authenticity is a crucial issue. Food adulteration, which is defined as a process by which the quality or nature of a given product is reduced due to the addition of a foreign or inferior substance and the removal of a vital element, is one of many aspects of the authentication of food that are concerned. These include misleading about the origin, mislabeling, and adulteration.

Methods Used for Food Authentication

Due to the global rise in food fraud, there is a growing demand for accurate and reliable analytical tools for food investigations. Various analytical methods can be used to determine the validity of food items and their ability to be traced, including sophisticated DNA-based methods, neutron and proton-based nuclear methods, separation methods and spectroscopic methods.

Research on food authenticity has long employed elemental analysis to differentiate between geographical origin, organic vs conventional farming, or free-range versus conventionally produced foodstuffs.

According to several literature publications, elemental fingerprinting has also shown its value in determining the country of origin of foods such as spices, fruits, vegetables, cheese, tea, coffee, honey, olive oil, and wine. Numerous substances, such as nucleic acids, organic acids, amino acids, fatty acids, lipids, peptides, fruit spirits, carbohydrates, and other tiny molecules, are found in food items (preservatives, dyes, aromas, and other exogenous compounds). Due to the complexity of the components in food, it is now feasible to create distinctive molecular fingerprints using chromatographic techniques, which has enormous potential for distinction throughout the verification process.

Counterfeiting of Premium Whiskey

Premium whiskey is one of the most commonly imitated alcoholic drinks because of its enormous appeal and expensive cost. However, making fake whiskey often includes blending a less expensive whiskey that falls under the same category as the real thing, combining a cheap local alcoholic beverage with a genuine product, or passing off a cheap local alcoholic beverage with flavoring and coloring as a genuine brand.

Evaluating the Authenticity Parameters of Whiskey

This study's primary objective was to evaluate the authenticity parameter using a thorough elemental analysis and relevant statistical and chemometric tests. To determine the amounts of 31 elements in 205 whiskey samples, a wide variety of measurements were conducted using three analytical methods (ICP-MS, ICP-OES, and CV-AAS). Each of the tested alcohol samples also had its pH value evaluated, and the isotope ratios were calculated using the semi-quantitative data that had been gathered.

Techniques used in this Study

This research measured the amounts of 31 different elements in 205 samples. There were 170 original product samples and 35 fake product samples. V, U, Tl, Te, Sr, Sn, Sb, Pb, Ni. Mo, Mn, Li, Cu, Cr, Co, Cd, Bi, Be, Ba, B Al, and Ag elements' concentrations were determined using the ICP-MS technique, whereas those of Zn, Ti, S, P Mg, K, Fe, and Ca were assessed using the ICP-OES method. The total mercury concentration was calculated using the CVAAS method.

Some of the findings obtained for the 35 samples of fake products fell below the quantitation thresholds. In each instance, the Hg concentration was below the quantitation limit. Te in 31, Ag in 19, P in 15, Fe in 13, Bi and Sb in 12, Ti and Cd in nine, Zn in six, Tl and Mo in four, Pb, Sn, V, Al in three, U in two, and Li, Be, and in one sample were not detected. Interpretability of the results was increased by applying principal component analysis (PCA).


In the case of real samples, greater quantities of Mn, K, and P were observed. They serve as indicators for the detection of fraudulent conduct in this regard since their existence is closely tied to the time during which alcohol ages.

S is connected to the alcohol aging in barrels as another signal. The content of this element was much more significant in items that were not matured or aged for considerably less time.

The elemental analysis backed by statistical methods provides useful information, particularly when differentiating alcohol samples based on factors such as type and origin, and identifying age-related adulteration of whiskey.


Magdalena Gajek , Aleksandra Pawlaczyk , El˙zbieta Ma´ckiewicz, Jadwiga Albinska, Piotr Wysocki, Krzysztof Jó´zwik and Małgorzata Iwona Szynkowska-Jó´zwik (2022) Assessment of the Authenticity of Whisky Samples Based on the Multi-Elemental and Multivariate Analysis. Foods.

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Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  


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