Miami — BlockBar launched the first NFT-backed luxury spirits marketplace. The company sells collectible liquors direct to consumers through its website and each bottle comes with its very own NFT (non fungible token). The company is an early adopter in the NFT space, but other high-end brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci as well as some of the luxury car manufacturers are already in the space.
NFT sales have rollercoaster-ed and sky rocketed in the last several months since January 2021, according to Statista. But the spirits market hasn’t seen a disruption in who knows how long.
“Over the last 10 years, the number of wine and spirit collectors has grown by over 582% and fine wine and spirits have outperformed gold and the S&P. Despite this, collectors and consumers seeking to diversify their personal portfolios face physical obstacles and have restrictive access to these limited-edition assets,” the company said in a statement.
(Disclosure: Dov is the Global Spirits Director of DFA (Duty Free Americas) which, through its company, Falic Media, is an owner of Bloomberg Línea. His co-founder, Samuel Falic, is also an employee of DFA. Both are members of the Falic family which owns DFA.)
For the uninitiated, a non-fungible token is a unique and non-interchangeable piece of visual data stored on a digital ledger. In the case of BlockBar, that ledger is the Ethereum blockchain.
For the launch, BlockBar partnered with Glenfiddich to offer 15 bottles of Glenfiddich’s 1973 Armagnac Cask Finish Single Malt Scotch Whisky for $18,000 per bottle, and BlockBar plans to expand its offering throughout the year.
“About every two weeks there is going to be a drop. We have product lined up for the next year,” said Dov Falic, co-founder of BlockBar.
BlockBar has headquarters in New York, London and Panama.
Through his connections with the spirits industry, he and Sam Falic, his cofounder, were able to line up a solid roster of liquor brands that will be sold through BlockBar. For confidentiality reasons, the upcoming brands could not be disclosed in this article.
While Dov holds the liquor expertise, Sam oversees tech.
“When I was in college I launched a ticketing startup, and then I launched a fintech, so I have a background in project management and tech,” Sam said.
The cousins see BlockBar as a solution to the current hurdles in the luxury wine and spirits market. The high-end liquor industry has always been exclusive as only a finite number of bottles exist, but even then, the main way to buy would be through an auction house such as Christie’s or Sotheby’s - not necessarily the most approachable process for today’s younger consumers.
And when a collector buys a bottle of liquor or wine, they have to take into account transportation and storage, both of which, like art storage, need to be regulated in order to keep the liquid intact.
For those buying through BlockBar, the actual bottle will be stored in a proper facility in Singapore, while the NFT is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. Consumers will have their own virtual bar on BlockBar as well as a digital wallet that keeps track of their portfolio’s performance.
“It’s a way to ride the crypto wave but also hedge against it, because for those who think Etherium can go down, it’s a way to have a strong asset that outperforms gold,” said Sam.
The founders see four possible target markets:
- The collector who doesn’t have a place to store his liquor.
- A person looking to diversify their investment portfolio - the NFT can easily be sold without ever having to transport the actual bottle.
- The crypto skeptic - the uninitiated crypto person who wants to get into crypto but feels safer by having a physical asset backing their purchase.
- The crypto expert - who unlike the others, has also probably made a decent amount of money through crypto and is looking for interesting ways to spend it.
In addition to offering the unique NFT plus the physical bottle of whiskey, buyers will also get access to unique experiences such as a tour of the distillery followed by a tasting with the malt master.
While the first batch of Glenfiddich is on the pricier end, the founders see BlockBar as a way to offer a marketplace for liquors of all price ranges. The buyer can get the bottle delivered directly to them within a week or have it stored in Singapore.
“We sell the product at the suggested retail price, so since it changes hands fewer times it’s actually cheaper for the consumer,” Dov said, explaining that with each additional hand it passes through, the price increases.
While an NFT-backed asset seems like something that could be easily replicated by the spirit brands themselves, the cousins aren’t worried.
“They [the brands] don’t want to hold the merchandise, they don’t have the infrastructure, these brands are just not built for direct to consumer sales,” Dov said. “We take care of all the shipping, the storage, the payment, and the compliance,” Dov added.
Sam even thinks a little competition could be good for business, “It would just mean more people getting into the space which validates it [NFTs] for everyone,” he said.