Identification of fraudulent-age whiskies using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon (14C) analyses

Dunbar, E. , Cook, G.T. , Murdoch, I., Xu, S. and Fabel, D. (2018) Identification of fraudulent-age whiskies using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon (14C) analyses. In: Proceedings of the Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference 2017. Context: Packington. ISBN 9781899043781

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The last 10-15 years have witnessed a massively increased interest in collecting rare, single malt whiskies, with auction prices ranging from a few hundred pounds to many thousands. Consequently, these products have become a target for fraudsters who are selling what appear to be genuine old, rare whiskies that are actually relatively modern products. While the distilling industry can apply a number of modern analytical techniques to determine whether or not a whisky comes from the claimed distillery, it cannot determine the distillation year with any great accuracy. However, it has long been recognised that radiocarbon (14C) measurements can be used to estimate the production year of wines and spirits produced during the last 60 years or so, where the spirit was produced from a single year’s plant growth. This has relied on comparing the 14C measurements on the spirit with the northern hemisphere bomb calibration curve, produced from 14C measurements made on atmospheric CO2 and single year tree rings. We have taken the discipline to a new level by creating a calibration curve using new make spirit and single malt whiskies of known distillation year, which in the future can remove any question of the relevance of the bomb curve. This calibration curve also helps to take into account the fact that the grain may have been grown one or perhaps even two years prior to the year of distillation and also the fact that single malt may contain small volumes of an older vintage than its marketed age. Recently, we have undertaken radiocarbon measurements on three malt whiskies supposedly originating from the late 19th century. This paper explains how we process the samples, make the measurements and determine the year of distillation.

Item Type:Book Sections
Additional Information:6th Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference: Local Roots; Global Reach: Delivering Distilling Expertise to the World - Hilton Hotel, Glasgow, United Kingdom, 29 May - 01 Jun 2017.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cook, Professor Gordon and Dunbar, Dr Elaine and Xu, Dr Sheng and Fabel, Dr Derek and Murdoch, Mr Iain
Authors: Dunbar, E., Cook, G.T., Murdoch, I., Xu, S., and Fabel, D.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre

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