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Elemental profiles of whiskies allow differentiation by type and region by inductively coupled plasma –optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES)

The analysis of the elemental composition of whiskies provides important information whether being used to determine the sample origin or understanding how different whiskey styles are caused by processing equipment and raw materials. Therefore, profiling whiskies for trace elements could be a way to define different styles based on their micro-elemental composition. The purpose of this study was to differentiate various whiskey styles by evaluating the elemental composition of Whiskey samples.

Sixty-nine commercial whiskies were selected for this study, including: 33 single malt scotch, 16 Bourbon, 8 Irish, 2 Tennessee, 1 American Rye, and 9 Japanese whiskies. The whiskies varied in age from seven to twenty-seven years, and were analyzed on an Agilent 5100 ICP-OES system by direct dilution. Twenty-eight elements were quantified using matrix-matched calibration standards and the final data analyzed with the Agilent Mass Profiler Professional.

Results showed that the Agilent 5100/5110 ICP-OES is a viable tool for elemental profiling of various types of whiskies. The instrumental design allowed for fast and easy analysis of the samples with low detection limits for each measured element. Analysis of the spikes showed the method was precise and accurate. The preliminary data analysis of the whiskies showed that element compositions could possibly be used to differentiate samples based on age, type, and region. Further research is needed, with collaboration from the industry, to fully understand the degree element profiles can be used in whiskey research.