Kinsale Spirits is looking to cash in on both the popularity of Irish whiskey and the craze for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) by auctioning a digital representation of a rare cask of 20-year single malt, in a world-first.
The company is hoping to raise a minimum €60,000 from the auction of the cask with aspirations to secure many multiples of this if a bidding war breaks out.
NFTs, which are the latest investment craze to grip the market, are unique or limited-edition assets that exist only in the digital world.
When someone buys such a digital asset, their ownership is recorded on the blockchain allowing anyone to verify the ownership and authenticity of items. While anyone can still view the NFTs, the buyer has the status of being the official owner – a kind of digital bragging rights.
Kinsale Spirits is looking to create a buzz at its auction, which is to be held over the next week on the Open Seas crypto marketplace. The cask, which is to be sold originates from the former Cooley Distillery. This is believed to be the first time a whiskey cask has been represented by NFT and auctioned.
In this particular instance, the auction winner will also win the physical cask, which should increase in value over time.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Kinsale Spirits co-founder Ernest Cantillon said the appeal of the auction was that it would secure publicity. More important though is the wish to raise money for the spirits producer, which is in the process of establishing its own distillery.
"I would be hopeful that bidders in Asia in particular could be interested in this. It is a rare whiskey which in itself makes it a good investment but then of course if it captures the imagination then hopefully we're get many multiples of its face value," he said.
Mr Cantillon said he was particularly hopeful that there might be bidders from China, a largely untapped market for Irish whiskey, but one in which Kinsale Spirits has been making inroads.
"We've taken full advantage of the fact that Cork is twinned with Shanghai to get our product out there through various contacts. We've faced challenges along the way with this, not least lately. We've a container headed that has been held up due to the delays arising from the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal so we may well miss a trade show in Hainan we were hoping to make," he added.
Mr Cantillon, a publican and restaurateur who runs Sober Lane and Electric in Cork city, co-founded Kinsale Spirits in 2015. The drinks maker’s brands include Kinsale Gin and Red Earl Whiskey.
It is currently in the middle of confirming planning permission for a new distillery that will produce about 30,000 bottles a year on a site near Summercove.
“We’ve invested about €2 million in the business so far. Covid has held up planning but we have most of the equipment bought and are ready to go,” Mr Cantillon added.