William Grant & Sons’ premium whisky brand, Ailsa Bay, has launched the world’s first-ever blockchain whisky – in partnership with specialist blockchain technology company Arc-net. The objective is to ensure authenticity and allow traceability.
Dominic Parfitt, Head of E-Commerce, at William Grant & Sons, says “Innovation is a key part of our business. We’re constantly looking to evolve our offering and learn new things in order to push the boundaries within the drinks industry. We’re doing something now that we hope will set the bar for the future experience of spirits, and look forward to seeing how other brands follow suit as innovation within the industry continues to develop in the next few years.”
Ailsa Bay and whisky
Ailsa Bay was opened in 2007 on the Girvan site in Ayrshire. This is one of the largest Single Malt distilleries in the world which:
- manufactures up to 12M litres of single malt per year
- is also a place for distilling innovation
- produces four different styles of liquid, both Peated and Unpeated
- represents the ‘automated new age’ distillery.
Ailsa Bay aims to transform its whisky through experimentation, technology, precision distilling and data driven methods. The introduction of blockchain means consumers can now trace the origins of their whisky via an innovative web experience – individually tailored to each bottle. Ailsa Bay’s 70cl blockchain whisky (RRP £55) is available now.
- captures the full distilling and manufacturing process
- enables customers to track their whisky from source to store
- ensuring authenticity and traceability
- eliminates the possibility of counterfeit Ailsa Bay bottles being sold in stores.
The blockchain data comes from William Grant & Sons’ existing data sources. This includes:
- cask types
- filling dates
- bottling dates.
How the Ailsa Bay approach will work
Blockchain is a distributed database (ledger) managed publicly by millions of people, rather than controlled by one party. Once entered onto the blockchain, this means information cannot change – unless participants agree. The analogy referenced by Ailsa Bay is of a spreadsheet duplicated thousands of times across a network where, whenever someone adds a new row, there is a universal update at the exact same time. This makes a blockchain ideal for implementing traceability: no one party can change the existing ledger or falsify entries.
By scanning a QR code on the whisky bottle, users obtain a visual history of their whisky:
- produced using digitally created art generated by data
- unique to the individual liquid’s journey – what the distillers describe as “a ‘grain to glass’ digital consumer experience”.
The idea for using blockchain for whisky emerged from the William Grant & Sons’ inaugural ‘Hackadram’ event last year. This invited start-ups and innovation specialists to apply their expertise to shape the future of the company’s spirits.
The adoption of blockchain joins other innovative processes at Ailsa Bay, including:
- ‘micro-maturation’ where the new make spirit is first filled in small bourbon casks for six to nine months for rapid and intense maturation
- unique flavour measurement, analysing both the PPM (Phenol Parts per Million) and SPPM (Sweet Parts Per Million).
Such innovations bring a new ways of thinking to a liquor industry steeped in tradition. In addition, the new blockchain technology will enable Ailsa Bay to:
- gather data from existing and potential customers
- use mobile location services to locate where people buy and then consume its whisky.
The William Grant & Sons/Arc-net connection
William Grant & Sons is an independent family-owned distiller now run by the fifth generation of the family. It distills or makes some of the world’s leading brands, including:
- the Balvenie range of handcrafted single malts
- the third largest blended Scotch – Grant’s
- as well as non-whisky products like Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry, Milagro Tequila, Tullamore D.E.W Irish Whiskey, Monkey Shoulder and Drambuie and Hudson.
Arc-net is a Belfast-based technology business which seeks to advance the adoption of blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) into a range of markets. Arc-net was introduced to William Grant & Sons during the ‘Hackadram’ run in February 2018.
Primarily a digital, B2B service provider, Arc-net has focused on traceability and supply chain provenance. Over time its capabilities have extended its exploitation of blockchain functionality to smart contracts and payment systems.
Enterprise Times: what does this mean
Ailsa Bay is joining Tattoo, My Story (for example) is moving to blockchain as a way to protect authenticity in high value brands. What is, perhaps, a little different is Ailsa Bay’s hope that this will enable it to understand better its customers – as well as providing assurance to them.