Blockchain secures premium malt whisky for the first time
A whisky bottling firm in Scotland is using blockchain to guarantee the authenticity of its products to prevent counterfeits.
A QR code on the bottle links to a ‘non-fungible token’ (NFT). This NFT is secured on the blockchain distributed ledger, which has all the transactions related to the bottle immutable and public.
The key is linking the QR code to the NFT in a digital wallet. The blockchain is based on the Solana distributed ledger with a digital token called a Sol. This is designed to be carbon neutral and does not have the power requirements of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or Ethereum.
“There is nothing stopping someone cloning any QR code, but the digital token at the end cannot be replicated or its ownership,” said Alastair Brown, who runs The Whisky Barrel (TWB) in Fife, Scotland.
Some bottles of whisky are very rare and vulnerable to counterfeiting.
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“Blockchain technology is not just for the big companies, it’s for small companies like ours. It is the future. Applying a certified digital history to a physical bottle of premium Scotch whisky is the ultimate provenance for our barley-to-bottle approach.” Alastair Brown
The first 152 bottles with the system hold a 30-year-old distilled at the Glen Moray distillery in Elgin. Each of the individually-numbered bottles has the QR code that links to its corresponding NFT that provides digital proof of ownership on the Solana chain, called Solsea,, as well as the provenance of each bottle.
“First, each bottle purchased via the NFT on Solsea will be in the owner’s Phantom wallet and thus their Solsea account regarding bottles purchased using fiat currency on TWB website,” said Ryan Aitken, Managing Director of CD that developed the system.
“Buyers are encouraged to take ownership of the bottles corresponding NFT to achieve maximum security; this is done by simply providing their Phantom wallet address to TWB,” he said.
“Our enhanced inclusivity comes from buyers not having to buy any cryptocurrencies, just downloading the Phantom wallet on the IOS app store or their desktop and sending the wallet’s address to TWB’s email. Without a seller proving their ownership of that wallet, the buyer would know it is fake; this is because to transfer ownership of the digital provenance certificate, the user must be in control of that wallet,” said Aitken.
“Ownership of the wallet can be verified by simply asking the selling party to send over a tiny quantity of SOL from the wallet holding the NFT on Solsea to the potential buyer’s wallet; without this transfer taking place, you are assured the bottle is fake.”
“Alongside this, every NFT comes with time-stamped price analytics within its profile. These sales analytics in the NFTs profile are logged on the blockchain so cannot be altered at any point; this allows anyone who scans the QR code to have complete visibility of the bottles history. All wallet information is available on the public ledger, too, so any info a fraudulent seller provides about their wallet ownership can be cross-checked on the Solana Explorer app. This means a fraudulent seller cannot lie about the wallet; we have complete visibility of the NFT holder’s activity,” he said.
“Ultimately the bottle’s label could be copied; that’s always been a factor we’ve considered when creating this process. However, the fraudulent seller has no possible way of verifying their control of the NFT to the buyer without being the rightful owner. We must remember that the NFTs are essentially the digital counterpart to the bottle. The enhanced security is driven by the bottle owner holding their NFT(Digital version of the bottle) in a personal wallet, not on a marketplace, merely in their Phantom wallet because your Phantom wallet is your digital identity on the Solana blockchain.”
For whisky fans, the 1991 Speyside malt is bottled at cask strength (54.9%) and matured in a Palo Cortado Hogshead.