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Nuclear Testing Helps Identify Fake Vintage Whiskey 366

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the nuclear-booze-coozie dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Industry experts claim the market for vintage whiskey has been flooded with fakes that purport to be several hundred years old but instead contain worthless spirit made just a few years ago. Now researchers at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit have developed a method that can pinpoint the date a whiskey was made by detecting traces of radioactive particles created by nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s. '"It is easy to tell if whiskey is fake as if it has been produced since the middle of the twentieth century, it has a very distinctive signature," says Dr. Tom Higham, deputy director of the facility. Nuclear bomb testing in the 1950s saw levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere rise around the world so the amount of isotope absorbed by living organisms since this time has been artificially elevated. Whiskey extracted from antique bottles is sent to the laboratory where scientists burn the liquid and bombard the resulting gas with electrically charged particles so they can measure the carbon-14 in the sample. In one recent case, a bottle of 1856 Macallan Rare Reserve was withdrawn from auction at Christies, where it was expected to sell for up to £20,000, after the scientists found it had actually been produced in 1950. "So far there have probably been more fakes among the samples we've tested than real examples of old whiskey," says Higham.'"
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Nuclear Testing Helps Identify Fake Vintage Whiskey

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:39PM (#27820879)

    And I turned into Whiskeyman. My powers include slurred speech, a drunken lurch, and blackouts.

  • Taste (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pilsner.urquell (734632) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:40PM (#27820899)
    What? They can't tell the difference by tasting it?
    • Re:Taste (Score:5, Funny)

      by PeelBoy (34769) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:44PM (#27820963) Homepage

      According to Pizza Hut, no.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The real bummer is never knowing (either by experiment, or by taste) without opening the bottle. And, of course, you'd leave the bottle unopened until the perfect occasion...

      So... a new status would be started, called the 99% full original verified bottle of vintage whiskey. In fact, unopened full bottles will become the anti-status symbol.
      • Re:Taste (Score:5, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054) on Monday May 04, 2009 @06:15PM (#27822421)

        You are correct. This is a useless te.

        Opening the bottle destroys the value.

        Sort of like Schrodinger's Cat, the mere act of testing destroys the test subject.

        An open bottle can never be presumed to be real, and a still sealed one is equally suspect.

        Call me back when they can do this right thru th bottle.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          If the bottle is corked and someone doesn't want to insert a very tiny needle to get a sample of the whiskey itself, a fleck of cork could probably be tested to see how old it is.

          While the age of the cork doesn't guarantee the age of the whiskey, it might be an indication. Hard to say though.

          But the amount withdrawn is going to be in the uL range which isn't even a significant portion of a single drop.
    • Re:Taste (Score:5, Insightful)

      by OpenSourced (323149) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:46PM (#27821015) Journal

      What? They can't tell the difference by tasting it?

      I suppose they can, but telling the difference is not the same as proving it. You need some kind of proof to accuse somebody of making fakes, not just its subjective taste.

      • Re:Taste (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kell Bengal (711123) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:48PM (#27821049)
        'cus, you know, nobody buys wine for how it tastes... just for how impressive it looks in your liquor cabinet.
        • Re:Taste (Score:5, Interesting)

          by denttford (579202) * on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:43PM (#27821863) Homepage

          Respectfully, B.S.

          There is a sharp curve of diminishing returns once you cross the $40 mark in whisk(e)y. However, it doesn't take long to learn
          the difference between an Islay and a Highland, or to understand the difference between a younger or older scotch, or to understand that some expressions
          of whisky do better with longer casking and some are better when bottled at a younger age.

          Plenty is attributable to marketing - I'll take a $50 Lagavulin 16 over a $200 blended Blue Label any day of the week, twice on Sundays, and infinitely more on
          a mythical desert island. Those who are looking to impress coworkers, bosses, and clients may tell a different story, but it does not take long to develop a basic palate
          when it comes to whisky, nor does it require a ton of cash. Distinguishing between a chipped and truly aged scotch is trickier, but still doable.

          Frankly, in the end, it is about taste: if you can make a four year old taste like a 20 year old whiskey cheaply through chipping and good
          distilled water (whisky weakens throughout the barreling process as the "angels' share" evaporates), I'll be happy to drink it. To wit, I avoid blends in
          general, but a $15 fifth of blended White Horse is a hell of a deal and sits near a Macallan, Oban, Ardbeg, Balvenie 21, and a Lagavulin and a Laphroaig 15 (not to
          mention some ryes and borboun) on my shelf.

          And yes, I'm, might be fooled between the Lagavulin and Laphroig, but I doubt it when it comes to the others.

          I think one has to remember that not everyone who drinks or enjoys alcohol partakes in the American binge drinking culture - including many Americans.
          In fact, I have found some American tastes to be far more diverse than other cultures (to which I have been exposed) in fostering mixing, homebrewing,
          and modern bootlegging traditions - all of which should be somewhat enticing to /.ers in the sense of experimentation and applied science.

          • Re:Taste (Score:5, Interesting)

            by denttford (579202) * on Monday May 04, 2009 @06:16PM (#27822429) Homepage
            Sigh, there were some typos there. I wish I could attribute them to scotch, but I can't.

            I can, however, explain chipping, making a reply to my own post a little more legitimate. One way to make a younger whiskey (I'm not going to worry about the 'e' from here on) taste or appear older is to put roasted wood chips in the cask. Additionally, agitation may be used. Flavor and color is imparted by the cask over time and surface area (a terrible cheat is to introduce caramel into a casking, a practice which can disqualify the product from being marketed as scotch or whiskey in some areas). These tricks are more common in younger American distilleries, however lots of bad distilleries pull this nonsense.

            Now, younger whiskey will always taste "sharper" and less finished than it's older counterpart. It is possible to control this by mixing a younger whiskey with distilled water (for a single or vatted malt) or with older or calmer whiskies (for vatted or blended whiskies). Even so, there is a difference in taste between a whiskey that has matured and one whose alcohol content has been mitigated. Consumers can actually try this on their own, without a trip to a distillery: purchase a younger cask strength whisky (usually >55% ABV) and an older finished expression from the same distillery. Add distilled water until the ABV is the same level. Taste.
    • Re:Taste (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Burning1 (204959) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:51PM (#27821071) Homepage

      If you spend 20,000 pounds on a bottle of whiskey, you're going to taste the difference, even if there isn't one. Belief can have as much an impact on perception as reality.

      Penn & Teller did a great experiment in an episode of their show, Bullshit. In one episode, they serve hose water in fancy bottles with fantastic stump lines about how great and rare each different bottle of hose water is. Most of the diners tasted a difference between the various bottles of hose water.

      In another, they had a prop design guy use (extremely) cheap ingredients to create tantalizing foods. The waiter would convince diners that stale bread was an exotic french import, receiving rave reviews in the process.

      Advertising is all about perception, and a lot of our consumer economy is based on it. My girlfriend works for a high end cosmetics chain... You wouldn't believe what a rip off that stuff can be.

      It makes me wish I was in the cosmetics business.

      • Re:Taste (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:17PM (#27821509) Journal

        Advertising is all about perception, and a lot of our consumer economy is based on it. My girlfriend works for a high end cosmetics chain... You wouldn't believe what a rip off that stuff can be.

        It makes me wish I was in the cosmetics business.

        Would you be able to live with yourself though? Constantly lying to people and ripping them off, it would really wear on a person with a conscience.

      • If you spend 20,000 pounds on a bottle of whiskey, you're going to taste the difference, even if there isn't one.

        Does it taste like hubris?

        • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:59PM (#27822143) Journal

          It tastes like whatever you convince yourself that it should taste like.

          Probably a better example would be a better documented breed of self-deluded puppies: the kind of audiophiles who'd buy an audiophile-grade ethernet (i.e., digital!) cable for $500 and swear that they hear whatever difference you tell them they should hear, when they play MP3's (again: digital!) over that network. As if a 1 weren't just as much a 1 or a 0 as much a 0 over it. But no, if you tell them they should hear a fuller and richer bass, they'll actually hear it.

          There are wooden volume knobs sold out there as doing this or that magic for the music, and (the right kind of) people will actually hear that magic. Even though that volume knob isn't even part of the signal chain at all. It's just a wooden disc on the outside. The potentiometer (variable resistor) that actually controls the volume is something else on the same shaft. But they'll swear they hear the difference.

          Someone on another forum at one time actually heard the difference between MP3's played off different brands of hard drives. Once it got into his head that a magnetic disc is really coated in a magnetic layer like a cassette, and that there was this different between sound reproduction between different cassette coatings (e.g., iron versus chrome), he actually started hearing that one hard drive gives better bass and another gives better trebble. And he can hear that difference.

          So basically my bet is that it works just the same with anything. Sound, image, taste (since we're at whiskey), or whatever you wish. If the Grimm Brothers' "The Emperor's New Clothes" had happened IRL, people would have actually seen whatever clothes they got it into their head that really smart and superior people see. And no amount of children screaming "the emperor is naked" would change that. And even if you got the emperor and his guards out of the equation, if a hundred years later the country were a republic and the non-existent clothes were in an (empty) glass box at a museum, some people would still go and congratulate each other for being so superior as to see the fabulous clothes in the box.

      • Re:Taste (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Monday May 04, 2009 @07:43PM (#27823809)

        In another, they had a prop design guy use (extremely) cheap ingredients to create tantalizing foods. The waiter would convince diners that stale bread was an exotic french import, receiving rave reviews in the process.

        They also had at least one customer call them on how horrible the food was. And let's forget that they shot a lot of footage and only showed you the parts they wanted to (like the various asking people on the street obvious trivia questions shows). Definately a biased sample. But mostly they could have been praying on the people's nature not to cause a fuss, and to agree with authority. After all, if I tell you that the bitterness in Merlot is a Good Thing, you might not like it, but want to appear sophisticated to me (the waiter), so you claim to. In other words, people lie, especially when they worry their fears aren't warrented.

    • by NitsujTPU (19263)

      I'm fairly sure that they're taking a very very small sample of the whiskey if 750ml sells for $20,000.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by antagonizt (613384)
      Whiskey unlike wine does not age in the bottle. A hundred year old bottle of crappy whiskey will taste as bad as a new bottle of crappy whiskey. When bottles of whiskey talk about age they are referring to the length of time it spent in the barrel.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665)
      Well it's whiskey, not whisky, so probably not.
    • by teg (97890)

      What? They can't tell the difference by tasting it?

      Not without having an identical sample to compare it to... In the case mentioned here, I doubt that is handy. And while they might be able to easily identify it if the contents was Johnnie Walker Red Label, distinguishing 1950 and 1850 from the same distillery would probably be a lot harder.

    • Re:Taste (Score:4, Informative)

      by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:14PM (#27821477)
      You can if you're the Highlander:
      • CONNOR: "Brandy. Bottled in 1783."
      • BRENDA: "Jesus. That's old."
      • CONNOR: "1783 was a very good year. Mozart wrote his Great Mass. The Montgolfier brothers went up in the first hot-air balloon. And England recognized the independence of the United States."
  • Shocking. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:41PM (#27820905) Journal
    I never would have expected fakes to outnumber genuine articles in a status driven market with poor verification.
  • by sampson7 (536545) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:44PM (#27820975)
    It sounds like "real" old whiskies are set to see a dramatic increase in price. Imagine if a rare collectible that fetched thousands of dollars at auction were about to become 50 or even 80 percent rarer. The intersection of the good old supply and demand curve sounds like it's about to jump....

    But really, who needs anything better than a 16 y.o. Lagavulin, anyway? F'ing Snobs.
    • So where's this "business opportunity" you speak of? Well here's mine: decreasing the radioactive content of "fake" whiskey to match that of the "genuinely" old stuff!

      • by idontgno (624372) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:30PM (#27821661) Journal

        Well here's mine: decreasing the radioactive content of "fake" whiskey to match that of the "genuinely" old stuff!

        Well, if you do manage to invent the nuclear damper [wikia.com] and accelerate the 1/2 life decay of carbon-14, let me know. I can think of a lot of people who'd be interested in forcing accelerated decay of stuff like plutonium.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Yep - I think if he was able to do that, the technique itself would be worth far more than any whiskey tricks.

          But for anyone thinking it could somehow be filtered, that's simply not possible. All the alcohol and the stuff that gives it flavor are organic molecules with carbon making the backbone. There isn't a way to go in and find which are the carbon-14 atoms and selectively replacing them with carbon-12.

          The technique used is guaranteed to be mass spectroscopy which destroys the sample because it ha
        • by mangu (126918) on Monday May 04, 2009 @06:14PM (#27822393)

          if you do manage to invent the nuclear damper and accelerate the 1/2 life decay of carbon-14, let me know

          Very simple: grow your grain with the CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuels. Oil or coal that are millions of years old have very little C-14.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        All you need to do is re-bottle 1940 and earlier whiskey as the super old stuff. That totally eliminates this test as a way to tell the difference.
    • My belief exactly. Whiskey [scotlandwhisky.com] stops aging after about 30 years in the casket and most of that in the first 15 years or so. Buying a 100 year old bottle of whiskey is just a wast of money.
  • Such a waste (Score:2, Informative)

    by ironicsky (569792)

    If a bottle of whiskey is supposedly worth $20,000, assuming its a 26oz bottle and they take even 1oz out for burning that drops the value almost a grand.
    Seems like an expensive waste to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SnarfQuest (469614)

      But, if it turns out to have been created last tuesday, then you're only burning a few cents worth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This can likely be done on the order of uL.

    • by PeelBoy (34769)

      If it turns out to be fake it could have been a $20,000 waste.

    • Re:Such a waste (Score:4, Interesting)

      by evanbd (210358) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:03PM (#27821273)

      A mass spectrometer can operate on a few milligrams of carbon. That means you need perhaps as much as 50 microliters of whiskey, or about 0.0017 oz.

      Burning $0.50 worth of whiskey makes sense to me when testing a $20,000 bottle that has a greater than 50% chance of being a fake.

      • I suspect that onece the bottle is opened it's worth considerably less. But then I actually know what the fuck I'm talking about, in so far as I can spell "whisky", I've ben to Scotland (twice) and I can point ot it on a map.
        • by tholomyes (610627)

          Then you certainly already know that, in general, it certainly is Scotch and Canadian "whisky" but American and Irish whiskeys are spelled with that pesky extra "e". I should know, I've been to Ireland (once) *and* America and I'm still too drunk to even find a map.

        • by demonbug (309515)

          I suspect that onece the bottle is opened it's worth considerably less. But then I actually know what the fuck I'm talking about, in so far as I can spell "whisky", I've ben to Scotland (twice) and I can point ot it on a map.

          Can't spell 'been', or 'or', or 'once', though, apparently.

          I'd guess they extract the material they need by inserting a syringe through the cork. When they pull it, it should seal up pretty much the same as it was before they collected the sample. Probably not pulling the cork and ruining the bottle.

          Just a guess. I have not been to Scotland, and I do not know how to spell whiskey.

  • Not because its so recent, but because its been contaminated by nukes. On the other hand,t he 2nd half of the 20th century will have a very distinctive stratigraphic signature in the far future from the atmospheric nuke tests.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by omnichad (1198475)
      And of course assuming that Carbon-14 had never spiked for any reason in the past before we knew what it was and measured it regularly.
      • by Gonoff (88518)

        We have pretty good records going back a long way. My favourite is the core samples taken from the north & south poles etc. They contain atmospheric samples trapped in the ice going back a long way. They can be used to prove C14 CO2 and other stuff.

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:17PM (#27821513) Homepage

        We can compare C-14 dating to other known dates. For example, C-14 dating agrees with dating from dendrochronology(the fancy word for counting tree rings). C-14 dating also agrees with other forms of radioactive dating and known historical data. We can be very sure there hasn't been any spike in the last 9000 years or so. Sudden spikes would also show and make a lot of archaeology just not look like it made any sense. And if there were any form of spike we'd likely see an impact in the ratios of other isotopes. If there had been substantial nuclear detonations for example, we'd be able to tell.

        A spike won't add a uniform extension or contraction to dates. For most forms of spiking, you'll get a lot of stuff looking like it is from a very short time period or you'll get a very large period where you don't see almost anything (depending on whether you have a process adding too much C-14 or reducing C-14 levels). We can be pretty sure that C-14 dating is accurate.

  • Hopefully the test doesn't require burning too much of the purchase ;)

    I'm not that experienced when it comes to whiskey, but is there a huge difference (a £20,000 difference) between a 50 year old bottle and a 150 year old bottle in terms of the actual quality of the whiskey or does the price simply reflect the rarity and status? Is there ever a point where the whiskey doesn't get better after more time?

    I think I'll stick with J&B.

    • I'm curious about this too. I recently attended a get-together with some old friends, and we shared a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label for the occasion. I'm not a Scotch connoisseur, so I think it was pretty much wasted on me, but everyone else seemed to think it was the greatest thing ever.
      • I recently attended a get-together with some old friends, and we shared a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label for the occasion.n

        Ugh. Blended scotch.

        Presumably they weren't very good friends. ;-)

        • by denttford (579202) *
          God bless you, Mr. Master. Had I not already /. befriended you, that comment alone would have led me to do so.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by profplump (309017)
          Blended scotch isn't necessarily bad. It gets the reputation because it's much easier to hide cheap scotch by blending it. But if you start out with good scotch you can make very nice blended scotch, and you can make blends with attributes that are all but impossible to obtain in a single-malt. I prefer The Macallan myself, but to dismiss all blended scotch as second-rate is pure snobbery.

          Also note that many single-malt distilleries are now selling their stock to other labels, and are intentionally "blendin
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Is there ever a point where the whiskey doesn't get better after more time? Is there ever a point where a little extra penis length doesn't matter in a bragging contest? Yes, at the point where it is already older or longer than every other example you are comparing it to. "So Bob, you say you have a bottle of fine 150 year old whiskey? Well, I've got a bottle of 151 year old whiskey! Suck on that loser!"

      Although I never win the whiskey age bragging contests, the penis length contests are a different matt
    • by Fortunato_NC (736786) <`moc.nsm' `ta' `57hnilrev'> on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:12PM (#27821433) Homepage Journal

      Whiskey (or any liquor that is aged for flavor) only ages "in the barrel". Once it is bottled, it does not age anymore, because glass is inert. So if your grandfather bought a bottle of 12 year old Chivas in 1960 and left it gathering dust in his liquor cabinet for the next 49 years, you do not have 61-year old scotch, you have 12 year old scotch that's been in the bottle for 49 years. The value in these old bottles is not necessarily in their age per se, it's in their rarity - many of these old distilleries have long since ceased production and gone out of business, their recipes are lost, and the old bottles represent a legacy of sorts for the regional producers who thrived before giant corporations took over the production of spirits. It's kind of like buying NOS (new old stock) stickers for your MAME cabinet or arcade build. Only in this case, the "relics", such as they are, are a link to the past that simply can't be recreated once they're gone. The process that's descibed in the article ensure that the unscrupulous among us don't try to take advantage of people's desire to connect with that which came before.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Yes, there is absolutely a period where whisky doesn't get better after more time - when you take it out of the barrel and bottle it!

      An "1856" Macallan could just ba a "10 year old" that has sat in a bottle for 150 years. And likely wouldn't taste much different (though I do have to say, it would be interesting to see how the overall taste due to production differences may have changed in that time...)

  • by drewsup (990717) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:57PM (#27821169)
    They opened the bottle to test the whiskey and my cat disappeared.. where d he go????
  • by fotbr (855184) on Monday May 04, 2009 @04:59PM (#27821203) Journal

    Subject says it all, really. After all, alcohol abuse is bad.

  • I seem to recall a bunch of other tests (fbi bullet matching, dna identification) which were assumed to work for decades. So how do you attempt to disprove this one? Test hundreds of bottles of "known" 150 year old whiskeys?

    • Carbon-14 testing is calibrated against other, trusted external indicators. One example is counting tree rings in trees in the vicinity of the sample.

      In this case it is actually simpler. Since the test is only verifying that the carbon-14 level is does not exhibit a spike caused by nuclear testing, it doesn't need full calibration. If the carbon-14 level is extraordinarily high, then it's post-1945, if not, then it's pre-1945. I don't think they are currently verifying exact ages.

      On a side note, while b

      • by kalirion (728907)

        If the carbon-14 level is extraordinarily high, then it's post-1945, if not, then it's pre-1945.

        Aren't there some areas on Earth with sufficiently higher "naturally occuring" radioactivity than normal? Could that skew the results? Or how about places that were more or less shielded from the nuclear testing fallout?

        Yes, they do exhibit false matches, and corroborating evidence should be required for a conviction, but they are extremely useful for ruling out suspects that might otherwise be prosecuted.

        The

  • I gotta make sure my Budweiser is fresh!

    Just kidding, all Budweiser is crap that I would never let past my lips.

  • Worthless? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:03PM (#27821263)
    No spirit is worthless if it contains alcohol of the appropriate kind.

    • No spirit is worthless if it contains alcohol of the appropriate kind.

      Now add a bit radioactivity, and you have an after taste like non-other.

    • A friend of mine at high school/college's response to "What's your drink?" was always "Anything that has '% alc/vol' on the label."
  • If you're going to shovel over a truck full of money for a single bottle of hooch, maybe it's time to consider what kind of ego problems you have and whether the money is better spent on therapy.

    • by borizz (1023175)
      You can make the same argument for expensive cars. People like to show off.
    • You've seem to have some issues. For someone who earns ~$20m a year, it is only 1/1000th of their income. Roughly the same as someone who earns ~$40k a year spending $40.

      Do people that make ~$40k have issues for buying a $40 bottle of whisky?

      They dont have issues, they have too much money.
  • Whiskey and its age (Score:5, Informative)

    by skwang (174902) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:10PM (#27821391)
    As a whisk(e)y connoisseur let me add my 2 cents with following points.

    1. The older a whiskey is the more expensive it gets due to rarity, not quality. Many people have a bias toward older whiskeys (whiskies) because they think they are better. Like wine, some whiskeys age well, others don't.

    2. Whiskey must be stored in oak barrels to age. Once it is out of the barrel, and in a bottle or steel vat, it no longer ages. So a 10 year old whiskey sitting in a bottle for 50 years is still a 10 year old whiskey.

    3. Whiskeys in barrels lose about 2% a year due to evaporation, known as the angel's share. That 2% is mostly water in hotter climates, but in cooler ones, like Scotland, what is lost is mostly alcohol. Thus a spirit which is put into a barrel at 60% alcohol by volume (ABV) will be reduced to 50% ABV then 40% ABV as time goes one. This is important because once the produce drops below 40% ABV, it can no longer legally be named whiskey. Thus whiskeys are usually never older than 40 years of age to due the angle's share.

    4. Whiskey is how it's spelled in the USA (where I am writing this.) In Britain and Canada it is spelled whisky. Since the article discusses whisky from The Macallan distillery (yes the "T" is capitalized), the article's title and summary misspelled "whisky."

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:24PM (#27821581)

      2. Whiskey must be stored in oak barrels to age. Once it is out of the barrel, and in a bottle or steel vat, it no longer ages. So a 10 year old whiskey sitting in a bottle for 50 years is still a 10 year old whiskey.

      Are there any other laws of physics that whiskey violates? No wonder there are so many scottish physicists.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by skwang (174902)

        Aging can mean two things. 1) The passage of time. So a whiskey stored in any container gets physically older.

        2) But aging a whiskey is a specific process. Whiskey is created by the interaction of a spirit with the wood that it is in contact with. In effect you distill a "solvent" and that solvent dissolves chemicals in the wood. Thus when you remove the whiskey from a barrel you are in effect stopping the "aging process."

        When I said "[the whiskey] no longer ages." I mean this specific process (#2)

    • by ari_j (90255)
      I distinguish the spelling based on where the whisk(e)y is from rather than where I am.
      Whiskey = American or Irish
      Whisky = Canadian or Scotch
      Bourbon = Kentucky (nonconformists)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by confused one (671304)

        Tennessee Whiskey = Bourbon for the nonconforming nonconformist.

        But just to confuse matters:
        Jack Daniels spelled it whiskey
        George Dickel spelled it whisky

        I prefer the George Dickel No. 12 or the Barrel Select myself.

  • Another clue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsstahl (812393) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:10PM (#27821393)
    Another clue to the growing problem of fakes is the supply of hyper-aged whiskey _increasing_. Just a layman's observation.
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:11PM (#27821399) Homepage

    Creationists, however, deny the accuracy of carbon dating. Therefore, all the fake whiskey will be sold to them at full price.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)
      This is not technically "carbon dating", it's detecting the presence of a newer isotope that wasn't present in any quantities prior to a certain date.

      It's like detecting fake paintings because the paint uses modern pigments instead of what the contemporary artists used.

      So, try again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ceejayoz (567949)

        This is not technically "carbon dating", it's detecting the presence of a newer isotope that wasn't present in any quantities prior to a certain date.

        Nice try, but they're checking for Carbon-14, discovered five years before the first nuclear bomb was detonated and used for "carbon dating" materials up to about 60,000 years old. 14C is, in fact, the reason it's called "carbon dating".

  • What they are testing is the stuff made in Scotland called "whisky".

    The brown spirit made in other countries (including Ireland, Japan, Canada and the country to the South of Canada) is called "whiskey". This is quite different.

    Only whisky attracts idiots to put silly values on bottles of the stuff they are never going to drink.

    The only proper thing to do to a bottle of whisky is drink it (not all at once ;-). The same applies to a bottle of whiskey, and after a few, you will no longer mind you don

    • Only whisky attracts idiots to put silly values on bottles of the stuff they are never going to drink.

      Because no-one ever heard of people doing that with antique wines [google.com], right? It's not like Christie's or Sotheby's thinks that selling wine at silly values is much of a market [christies.com] ...

  • Not just whiskey (Score:5, Informative)

    by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:12PM (#27821431)
    Atmospheric contaminants are routinely used to date the age of groundwater (e.g., in wells) and even to measure the residence time for water in the watershed of rivers. The most commonly used radioactive element is the hydrogen isotope, tritium. You can see a curve for it here [eawag.ch], where the tritium level peaks in 1964 or so. You measure how much tritium is in the groundwater, then you compare it to that curve to which I linked after accounting for the decay of the tritium (half-life = 12.32 years), the match shows when that water fell as rainfall. Lot's of different contaminants are that way: CFC's used in air conditioners were useful until they were banned, SF6 is used in industrial transformers and does the same job.
  • You insensitive clod!

  • by Anenome (1250374) on Monday May 04, 2009 @06:44PM (#27822909)

    In other news, representatives of whiskey maker, Jim Bean Corp. were arrested Monday trying to buy radioactive materials from radical elements in Darfur. Experts disagree whether this was a plot to produce counterfeit whiskey or to produce a nuclear bomb as part of some plan for world domination. Dr. Evil was unavailable for comment by press time.

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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