back to article Thirsty Koreans fight duff whisky with mobiles

What's the best way to tell if you're being given duff whisky? Ask your mobile phone, of course. At least, it is if you're in South Korea. The Korea Times last week reported that the South Korean government intends to crack down on fraudulent whisky sales by making producers put Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spectrographic analysis

    Perhaps the mobile phone cameras could be modified to function as spectrometers, thus allowing the consumer to analyse the whisky by photographic means. I have no idea how a spectrometer works, or whether this could be done with a simple firmware upgrade, and I'm not being entirely serious; but perhaps there is a germ of an idea here.

  2. Rick

    does pose an interesting thought though

    This might actually be a good idea. But not to determine whether the hooch is permium or not. With the RFID chip you could look up info on several different brands. As a consumer I would find it nice to be able to read up and get background information on the blends each individual company uses to make their product. So if you are down at the local pub instead of sticking to your normal libation you may venture out and try some different ones and if you find one that pleases the tastebuds you can get more information about it and possibly link off on where to purchase said product.

  3. Godwin Stewart

    Other means of fraud

    Okay, so dodgy outlets (offies, bars etc.) can drink the pukka stuff, fill the bottles up with piss and sell them off at a huge profit. But what about the producers? If RFID chips are as cheap as mentioned in the article (15p), what's to stop a dodgy producer from buying a good bottle, reading its RFID tag and programming those on his own bottles with the same data?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If you order a 20yo single malt, and get served some cheap rot-gut, and don't notice it the moment you taste it, you don't didn't deserve the single malt in the first place!

  5. Craig Leeds


    Oh bloody brilliant this mean we are going to have to look forward to:

    "New iVideoPhone with RFID reader used on Paris Hilton's new clothing range to check if it's fake?"

  6. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    Hasn't anyone thought of ...

    ... the fact that all an unscrupulous forger has to do is read a few labels off the bottle in his local and duplicate that RFID tag contents onto his own tags ! It would only be detectable if you track each bottle by serial number AND have access to the tracking records that show that "your bottle serial number" has been tracked elsewhere.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you can't taste the difference...

    then you deserve to be fleeced.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spectrographic analysis?

    You need to prepare the material being analysed to make it emit light. You might do this by burning it, x-raying it, chucking radiation at it etc. It would probably be more accurate but would you want to drink it afterwards?

  9. Jeremy Hooks

    re: Surely...

    >> If you order a 20yo single malt, and get served some cheap

    >> rot-gut, and don't notice it the moment you taste it, you don't didn't

    >> deserve the single malt in the first place!

    Whilst I agree with the sentinment expressed, I would like to point out that the article didn't refer to 20yo single malts. The article referred to 21yo local (Korean) blends. I am not sure I could tell the difference between a 21yo Korean blended whiskey and some cheap rot-gut.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spectrographic Analysis?

    Not necessarily, you can do absorption spectrometry as well...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Your criticism assumes that people buy glasses of whisky rather than bottles

    If you always buy a sealed bottle then this is an excellent idea.

    It is standard practice in nearby Japan to buy a whole bottle, then leave what you didn't finish behind the bar ready for next time. Only foreigners ever buy a glass of whisky.

  12. Ishkandar

    21 yo rot-gut

    The fact is that the Koreans "blends" are, themselves, made by blending good and not-so-good whiskey. Spectroscopy or spectrometry will have a hard time telling the difference without a whole encyclopaedia of whiskey to reference !! Furthermore, after purchase, they proceed to chuck all sorts of mixers, including green tea, into the whiskey !!

    The **real** whiskey drinkers there buy only unblended stuff; for which privilege, they pay a hefty import tax, not to mention the advertising and importer's profit !!

    Whoever, this Korean guy is, he is doing a pretty good impression of Alistair Campbell !!

  13. John A Blackley


    You say, "To be fair to the Koreans, they don't actually seem all that bothered about people who'll buy top-end SCOTCH but need a mobile phone to tell them whether it's pukka."

    The S. Korean minister says, "Starting next year, we plan to recommend LOCAL DISTILLERS incorporate RFID chips to their 21-year-old whiskey blends,"

    Scotch is made in Scotland. Korean "local distillers" might market something called 'Olde Kimchee Juice, Och Aye' but it ain't Scotch.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hints and tips for detecting phoney bottles...

    If it's anything like wine, tasting the damn stuff is the least effective way to detect fakes. The usual rules are: (1) is the supplier trustworthy? (2) Is there a suspiciously high volume available (most of the good stuff is sold bottle by bottle)? (3) Is there anything suspicious about the label (check the thickness: photocopies tend to feel cheap)? (4) Any sign of tampering around the cork/foil (a sign of a possible refill)? (5) If you're really lucky, the producer will have a few readily-checkable authenticating marks (for wine, this might be the vintage stamped on the cork).

    Of course the truely frightening thing about RFIDing the whole show is that, armed with a suitable scanner, my wife might be able to detect just how much each bottle is worth without braving the rats and spiders in the cellar. And the taxman (plus his free-lance surrogates).

    On reflection, I think I'd be more concerned about the wife.

  15. Mike

    Missing the point

    Which is that the Korean Govt. wants to throw some cash at its friends in the RFID business. Quality or provenance of Whisky is totally irrelevant.

  16. Eugene Goodrich

    If you don't trust an RFID tag, fry it.

    RFID tags are going to be cheap and contain a bit of digital semiconductor, right? That should make them pretty weak at standing up to serious ESD. I assume once RFID tags become commonplace, purple wands (a tesla coil variant or relative) will be popularly employed to just break the RFID chips.

    Then let the tax man inspect your bottles.

  17. Emo

    Split RFID chip

    Why not split the RFID chip so that once the seal is broken on the cap the RFID no longer works.

    Once the bottle has been opened you can't be sure of it's contents if it's been left out of sight. Unless you drink it in one go that is...


  18. Dillon Pyron


    WTF drinks blends and thinks they're getting a quality drink? That's like drinking a Gallo cab and thinking you're getting a Petrus. Or worse, drinking a white zin.

    I agree, if you can't taste the difference between rot gut and even a good blend, then either you have no taste for whisky, or you have no taste for whisky. But if you're buying a blend, then ...

    That's like the saying "There's nothing like a good margarita and a frozen margarita is nothing like a good margarita".

  19. E


    "With the RFID chip you could look up info on several different brands."

    Um, IMSHO, if you need the web to help you choose whether to try some booze in a bar - even really really good booze - then you should be much *much* more proud of your powers of anal retention than the discernment of your palate.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    obligatory complaints missing...

    Interesting that nobody is complaining about the 'non-IT related' bent of the comments. Could it be that the complainers only read the 'non-IT' stories? :-)

  21. Lee Craig

    Hmmm, Whisky!

    "Thirsty Koreans fight duff whisky with mobiles"

    If the beer is good enough for Homer, then surely the whisky should be good enough for the Koreans?

  22. John Mcdonald

    On a larger scale

    Interesting, but this poses a major security risk when widened ... A canny crim would just need to scan a prospective target to see what goodies await before gaining entry ....

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