Friday, May 05, 2006

Forensic Tequilaists


by blogger jgl

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Whether you’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo or just having another relaxing day in Margaritaville, you might one day thank a chemist for assuring the authenticity of your tequila. New tests developed by scientists in Mexico and Germany will help distinguish the real thing from fraudulent versions, which are a potential threat as this alcoholic beverage grows in popularity.

Using ion and gas chromatography, scientists analyzed 31 tequila samples of the 100 percent Agave category and compared the results to 25 mixed-tequila samples. The pure Agave tended to have significantly higher levels of certain chemicals, including methanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, and 2-phenylethanol, allowing them to be chemically distinguished as real, high-quality tequila, the researchers say. Although methanol was present, levels were small and did not reach toxic levels, they add.

In addition to these new tests, a screening test using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) may be used to identify fake tequilas from the real thing, the researchers say. The process, also known as molecular fingerprinting, takes only two minutes, they say. In general, the strategy of combining different spectroscopic and chromatographic methods is more accurate than previous identification attempts, which focused on other chemicals or the isotopic composition found in tequila, the researchers say.