Scotch whisky uses blockchain to fight counterfeiting

Scotland’s Ardnamurchan Distillery has joined forces with tech firm arc-net to use blockchain technology to secure its bottles.

The collaboration will see the formation of a digital fingerprint that follows the whisky’s life from barley field source through bottling to distribution in a bid to safeguard the alcohol against counterfeits and fraud by ensuring the integrity of the supply chain.

The track and trace authentication system uses arc-net’s blockchain technology, which is essentially a digital database of time-stamped records or transactions, accessed via a unique QR code on the whisky bottle.

This is believed to be a world-first for whisky’s use of blockchain.

The first bottles to be piloted with the technology will be the new Ardnamurchan 2017AD spirit, where each bottle has been individually and uniquely marked. Alongside this, every whisky consumer will receive a digital certificate of authenticity to prove provenance and integrity of the supply chain.

“By simply scanning a bottle on their phone, customers will be able to find out unrivalled detail about their spirit. Every detail of each bottle’s story will be recorded, from when it was made to where it was exported, and much more,” said Alex Bruce, managing director of Adelphi, which owns and operates Ardnamurchan Distillery.

“Storytelling and authenticity are major components of the Scotch whisky industry. By pioneering this technology, Adelphi is both advancing and uniting these vital ingredients,” he added.

The technology also allows greater engagement between consumers and the whisky makers, providing educational information on how each bottle is manufactured.

Further advantages of the technology include automation of the supply chain and manufacturing process, eliminating traditional record-keeping systems, increasing supply chain transparency, improving operational efficiency and providing supply chain insights, Bruce said.

“Adelphi is thrilled to be part of arc-net’s vision to use technology to bring transparency and authenticity to the rapidly growing single malt whisky market,” Bruce said. “We have a vision for the future and using the platform is an integral component in our ability to capture and share production, process and product data with our customers, simply by scanning a QR code on the bottle.”

“In addition to a growing number of countries, globally, recognising Scotch Whisky’s Geographical Indication, we also believe it to be essential that the consumer is able to understand the craftsmanship of making it, and for the producer to ensure the security of their route to market. The arc-net platform will give us the opportunity, as a nascent distiller, to share and communicate our love for the brand and ensure our customers have the ability to visualise and validate our products as they move across the globe.”

Kieran Kelly, chief executive of arc-net, said blockchain had the ability to revolutionise product supply chains. “blockchain enables a new era of transparency and product authentication. Alex and his team are pushing the envelope of spirit and whisky production in terms of quality and traceability.”

Blockchain, the technology underpinning the digital currency Bitcoin, is a relatively new concept in the world of food fraud but over the past year there has been increasing moves into the space to address the issue.

Earlier this year, arc-net was appointed as a technology partner to use its blockchain software in one of the world’s largest food safety initiatives between the EU and China.

Meanwhile, numerous pilots have shown success in using blockchain to secure the supply chain of various wine brands.

For Scotland, as a whisky exporter central to the country’s economy, there is a need to secure the supply chain and prove provenance and authenticity in the face of the growing risk of food fraud and counterfeiting of the spirit, James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, told

“We believe we can double the size of our food and drink industry to £30bn by 2030. Innovation and provenance are two of the building blocks of that strategy. Scotland’s brand is growing globally and we must work hard to tell our story and, crucially, protect it too. So, it’s great to see the Ardnamurchan Distillery merging cutting-edge technology with the traditional distilling process to protect the all-important provenance of their newly launched 2017AD spirit.”

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