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A Novel Approach for Scotch Whisky Authentication

Scotch whisky, a popular high value spirit drink, is vulnerable to fraud. In this study, a non-targeted screening (metabolomics fingerprinting) of volatile and semi-volatile substances was used. After pre-concentration, gas chromatography (GC) coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (Q-TOF mass analyser) was employed. Unsupervised principle component analysis (PCA) and supervised partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS–DA) were used for evaluation of data obtained by analysis of a unique set of 171 authentic whisky samples. A very good separation of malt whiskies according to the type of cask in which they were matured (bourbon versus bourbon and wine) was achieved, and significant ´markers´ for bourbon and wine cask maturation, such as N-(3-methylbutyl) acetamide and 5-oxooxolane-2-carboxylic acid, were identified. This unique sample set was used to construct a statistical model for distinguishing malt and blended whiskies. In the final phase, 20 fake samples were analysed, and the data processed in the same way. Some differences could be observed in the (semi)volatile profiles of authentic and fake samples. Employing the statistical model developed by PLS-DA for this purpose, marker compounds that positively distinguish fake samples were identified.

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