Food & Drink

Fake Liquor Is Out There and This New Sensor Can Help Find it

As the price and demand of something rises, so do the instances of people making counterfeits. Booze is no exception, as recent examples like the fake 1878 Macallan and the deadly fake tequila in Mexico prove. But a new portable fake alcohol sniffing device might be the answer.

The yet-to-be-named sensor was developed by two University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers, Zheng Li and Kenneth Suslick. It can identify the alcoholic content and brand of 14 different liquors with more than 99 percent accuracy. It’s currently in the proof-of-concept stage, but the results look promising. According to a paper published by the American Chemical Society, the sensor could even detect when alcohol has been watered down by as little as 1 percent.

The sensor has been tested on scotch, bourbon, rye, brandy and vodka. It works by using a disposable colored sensor with 36 dyes. Specific liquors cause the dyes to change color when exposed to their vapors, which are partially oxidized in the device. A color pattern shows within two minutes, and can tell what the liquor is based on the understood color pattern of a pure spirit.

Of course, people aren’t going to stick to just 14 brands and five types of alcohol. It’s got a long way to go before it can tell you what you need to know about about every common bottle on the shelf. It is a step in the right direction, though. Spirits haven’t had as big of an imposter problem as wine, but with spirits regularly going for thousands of dollars a bottle through sometimes questionable channels, it’s better to be safe than sorry.