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Blockchain used to prove when Scotch whisky was distilled

scottish whisky

The Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center (SUERC) of the University of Glasgow signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with blockchain firm Everledger to address fraud in the whisky industry. The partnership will implement Everledger’s Near Field Communication (NFC) tags to authenticated Scotch whisky bottles.

In 2018, the Scottish whisky market was valued at $4.97 Billion, with collectible bottles of single malt Scotch whiskies reaching £57.7 million ($76.94 million) in sales in 2019. SUREC researchers estimate that around 40% of those could be fake. From a sample of 55 bottles, researchers found 21 to be fake or distilled far more recently than the bottle claims.

At the beginning of the year, Everledger launched the blockchain-based anti-tamper bottle closures to prevent counterfeiting in the wine and spirits industry. The deal with SUERC will enable the research center to implement the technology to communicate the authenticity of Scotch whisky bottles to consumers, increasing trust and transparency in the market. 

However, the bottle closures and blockchain are only one aspect of the process. The secret sauce is based on SUERC’s research.

The SUERC research center uses a technique called radiocarbon dating, where a radiocarbon dating curve was drawn from a sample of the rarest whisky and can now be used to determine the age of vintage whisky in circulation. If authentic, the bottles receive an NFC tag that creates a unique digital identity for the whisky certifying its origin and age. Each bottle’s identity can be tracked using Everledger’s blockchain solutions.

The machine-readable NFC tags can be applied to labels, heat shrinking capsules, and others, enabling bottling companies to implement the tag on existing bottles without disrupting normal operations. 

The market for Scottish Whisky is expected to surpass $7.89 Billion by 2027, and a bottle of rare whisky can be worth tens of thousands of pounds. This growing and profitable market is very attractive for fraudsters, and as such, a tag proving the authenticity of the whisky increases its value and protects its brand. 

Meanwhile, Everledger is working on transparency solutions across multiple high-end industries. The blockchain firm recently announced a partnership with China’s e-commerce company and the Gemological Institute of America to implement a solution for verifying diamond’s authenticity and increasing trust in its online sales. Everledger had worked on a similar project with Hong Kong’s jewelry chain Chow Tai Fook, and has a project with diamond mining company ALROSA for diamond tracing from the mine to retail outlets.