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Drinking Science

Whisky Goes Nuclear

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How do you tell whether an old bottle of Scotch is legit or a phony? Well, you could send it to me and I’ll drink it and let you know… or you could run it through a whisky Geiger counter:

Scientists have found that minute levels of radioactive carbon absorbed by the barley as it grew before it was harvested to make the whisky can betray how old it is.

Researchers at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, which is funded by the National Environmental Research Council, discovered that they could pinpoint the date a whisky was made by detecting traces of radioactive particles created by nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s.

They can also use natural background levels of radioactivity to identify whiskies that were made in earlier centuries.

Counterfeiters: You are now on notice!

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Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content company.

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