In late June, Massachusetts-based auction house Skinner Inc. will be selling what could be the oldest-known whiskey in existence. Skinner’s rare spirits specialist, Joseph Hyman, has based this claim on radiocarbon dating of a sample taken from this whiskey, branded as Old Ingledew, suggesting an 81.1% probability that it was produced between 1763-1803. But does the science support this claim?
Radiocarbon (14C) dating is a great tool for accurately determining the year of distillation of single malt scotches within one to three years, providing that the whiskies are from the atomic era (1950 to the present day). It can discriminate between genuinely old whiskies and fakes that have been refilled with modern liquid. For whiskies produced before 1950, however, this dating technique is far less accurate—due to the variation of 14C, which often indicates numerous possible time frames that can span multiple decades.
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