Since 2021, NFTs have become a rising trend within the luxury or ultra-premium alcohol sector, with many high-end brands such as Glenfiddich, Hennessy and Bacardi having launched NFTs in the last year to accompany the launch limited-edition products.
One of the latest entrants to the scene is Scotch whiskey giant Johnnie Walker, which has launched seven NFTs to accompany its rare 48-year-old Johnnie Walker Masters of Flavour limited edition whiskey.
Johnnie Walker partnered with NFT specialists BlockBar, which has a strong focus on the alcohol sector and was the platform that launched the Glenfiddich and Hennessey NFTs.
“Our intention was always to reserve a number of this extremely limited edition whiskey for sale in a way that would provide whiskey aficionados with an enhanced, cutting-edge whiskey experience,” a Johnnie Walker spokeswoman told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[To add to the luxury of the experience], the set of seven NFTs will give the owners an inclusive invitation to a three-day trip to Edinburgh [to] immerse themselves in the history of Johnnie Walker and the city’s whiskey-making culture
“[There will also be] a stay at the Gleneagles Townhouse and a tour of Glenkinchie Distillery where Johnnie Walker is made, a guided tour of the Diageo Archive, private tastings of rare, collectible whiskies from the Diageo collection and dinner at some of the city’s premier restaurants.”
Although Johnnie Walker still appears to see the luxury, new-age experience NFTs can provide as its main motivation for the launch, to BlockBar, NFTs are more than just a passing trend for the premium alcohol sector, but a futuristic digital enabler brands can use to give consumers a guarantee of authenticity and traceability alongside the luxury experience.
“NFTs can represent anything from photos, GIFs, music, data, tweets - and in this case, wines and spirits bottles – that exist on a public blockchain to ensure digital authenticity and ownership,” BlockBar Co-Founder Dov Falic told us.
“[Instead of looking at NFTs as being just trendy in the wine and spirits space], our goal is to find a role for NFTs to solve real issues – transparency, authenticity, quality assurance and storage - that consumers and brands typically face in the wine and spirits industry.
“We also saw an opportunity to offer the collecting and the gifting of wine and spirits to all demographics [by] democratising the traditional wine and spirits industry [via] NFTs, [as well as] introducing the younger demographic to luxury spirits and the older demographic to NFTs, and we expect to see an uptick in high-end spirits investments.”
The firm believes that NFTs have the potential to make it in a big way in high-end alcohol due to the many challenges the sector faces with food safety issues such as food fraud and counterfeiting, and its increasing focus on traceability and authenticity.
“[For what we do with premium alcohol], we only sell asset-backed NFTs – which means you own the physical bottle and the NFT acts as proof of ownership, [and this helps tackle] one of the main issues which is authenticity,” Falic added.
“Counterfeits are an issue which costs fine wines and spirits brands millions of dollars per year, so wine and spirits brands adopting NFTs can prove authenticity by proving where a product came from throughout the entire sales lifecycle, which eliminates counterfeiting issues for bottle owners and the brand owners.
“People don’t realize how big this industry is, and in our eyes, it is still undervalued. [Our goal] for the next five to 10 years is to introduce more consumers into the world of web3 (the ‘next stage’ of the internet predicted by experts to be upcoming, which will signify greater consumer autonomy, and will be based on blockchain) and to introduce wine and spirits collecting and investing to a wider range of audiences.
Focus still on audience engagement now
That said, for Johnnie Walker the NFT offering is as yet still more of a means of engaging with a new audience in a new, futuristic way combining a traditional product (such as scotch whiskey which has been around for centuries) and new-age trending technology that is NFTs.
“NFTs are certainly an interesting space to be in at the moment and are experiencing huge interest and growth,” the firm told us.
“This collaboration was an example of how we’re always looking to the future and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in whiskey.
“[That said], it is hard to predict how this will develop in the future but we’re certainly keen to keep an eye on this nascent industry. It is early days and it’s still - relatively - in an embryonic moment so we’ll be watching closely to see how it develops.
“We are intrigued to see what the future holds for NFTs and the whole world of crypto [particularly in terms of] new ways of engaging with people digitally, e.g. experiencing whisky at home in an immersive way or enabling them to experience our whiskies online. For these, we do want to be there and to create something exciting.”