Researchers leverage NFC and blockchain to tackle fraud in the rare whisky trade

Rare whisky authenticated via NFC and blockchain
AUTHENTICATION: An NFC tag on the whisky bottle connects to a digital certificate on a private blockchain

Collectors, retailers and auction houses will soon be able to authenticate bottles of rare vintage whisky by using their smartphone to tap an anti-tamper NFC bottle closure that connects to a digital certification record held on a private blockchain.

The system has been developed to tackle the counterfeiting of collectable whiskies and uses radiocarbon dating technology developed by the Scottish Universities Environment Research Centre (SUERC) at the University of Glasgow to verify a vintage whisky’s age.

“SUERC has developed a way to accurately determine when whiskies were distilled,” the researchers explain. “By being granted unprecedented access to samples of the world’s rarest whiskies, its researchers have created a unique radiocarbon dating curve which is now used to determine the age of all types of vintage whiskies.

“This finely graded system can, in many cases, pinpoint the true age of old whiskies to within a couple of years, and quickly detect fakes. In fact, research released by SUERC in 2018 showed that of 55 bottles of rare Scotch they had tested, 21 were either fake or not distilled in the year stated.

“With the verification of this important information now possible, SUERC’s customers were keen to go further and add an additional element of security to the process to guard against any risk that a rare bottle might be tampered with after it has been dated.”

After the age of a vintage whisky has been verified, the information is added to a digital record on the Everledger blockchain platform that also contains details of the whisky’s origins and ownership history. An NFC-powered tamper detection label is then added to the bottle cap.

“This enables the digital record and any future chain-of-custody data to be captured through the supporting blockchain technology,” SUERC explains.

“And with the tap of a smartphone, the provenance of the bottle and its lifetime journey can be viewed, protecting and even enhancing its overall value.

“Not only is the tag secure and unique, it is also discrete, retaining the authenticity of the bottle that collectors appreciate.”

According to SUERC, sales of collectable bottles of single malt Scotch whiskies reached a total value of £57.7m (US$78.83) in 2018, while as many as 40% of all rare vintage whiskies in circulation could be fake.

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