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How Metaverse Merchants Are Revolutionising The Whiskey Business


John: Could you tell me a bit about yourself, your background and how you entered the web3 space?

Grant: I came into web3 space from the utility side. Back in 2020, I was deep into digital marketing in web2 and came across a program that was looking at how to tokenize ad spend and prevent ad fraud. That led me down a rabbit hole, never to return.

I switched to web3 full time a few years ago and have picked up some incredible jobs, including running as CMO for Coinstash, a popular crypto exchange over here in Australia. And yeah, I just haven’t turned back, I love the space.

In a nutshell, what is Metaverse Merchants?

Metaverse Merchants is a platform that allows people to craft ultra-premium whiskey and influence how it’s created before it’s released.

We’ve been very lucky to collaborate with a specialist craft Irish whiskey firm, through which we have acquired a full tanker of Irish single malt whiskey. These guys are multiple world record holders for the most expensive bottle of whiskey. Forbes voted one of their bottles as the best whiskey on the market in 2023 – and that’s the liquid we have for this project, which holders will be able to personalise as they wish.

The idea is to onboard the next generation of whiskey lovers. The distillery considers themselves to be a disruptor in the space, and they were keen to get this off the ground. It’s been an incredible journey from there.

When thinking of web3-meets-alcohol projects, BlockBar comes to mind. How are you different to those guys? What makes Metaverse Merchants unique?

BlockBar is brilliant for existing real-world assets. They tokenize pre-existing whiskey bottles. We’ve created a virtual distillery through an NFT with dynamic traits that allow you to influence a whiskey in production. This allows you to blend and finish the whiskeys in different casks, shape your own recipe and then bring that to market, even down to choices in bottles and labels.

Wow, that is very interesting! What team have you assembled to help build this?

Going back to the origins of the project, Metaverse Merchants came about as I was looking into personal investments.

I unfortunately lost my mother the year before last, and had some funds for my younger daughters that I needed to lock away for 15 years. A cask investment seemed like a great choice, so I started vetting the market. I got talking to a gentleman in the industry, and he started talking about NFTs and what his boss wanted to do in the space. I said I’d put him in touch with the wider team at DMCG, and it spawned from there.

We spoke with the Whiskey & Wealth team in Australia, plus their founders over in Ireland. They were super keen on the project’s vision. It turns out one of the founders of The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. is an NFT holder – they are already known as disruptors in the whiskey business, and were keen to use NFT technology to onboard the next generation of whiskey lovers – and yeah, it’s been an incredible journey from there.

Let’s talk about the tech behind the NFTs. You’ve mentioned being able to finish your whiskeys in different casks, and different bottling & labelling opportunities. How do your NFTs factor into that process?

We searched for a long time for a solution to the utility we wanted to build. We couldn’t find it, so we’ve partnered with the platform One Mint to build it.

Each of our NFTs will have a variety of tradable, dynamic traits. These traits will influence the type of barrel your whiskey will age in, how long they will age for, the blend, the bottle and more to personalise your whiskey as you wish. Your imagination is the limit.

These traits are decisions in the whiskey creation process, and are entirely up to the holder. If you wanted to, you could release a cask-strength single malt whiskey, no fuss. That’s often one of the top sellers in the market.

Do you think the concept of blending (pun intended) real-world assets with NFTs will be an area of web3 that will grow this year? How do you think space will progress?

I think it’s a logical progression.

One of the first discussions we held was how to tokenize the entire supply chain and prove that the best quality ingredients are being incorporated into the mash. Everyone makes the claim that they’ve got the most pure water and the most organic wheat, but it’s really hard to prove that and link it to the batches in production.

Blockchain is a perfect solution for that, so I only see it progressing further.

How deep do these tokenization ties go with Metaverse Merchants?

At this stage, that’s all in discussion. The traditional Irish whiskey industry is very traditional. All the more credit to Jay’s team at the distillery – they’re really shaking up the space, and Metaverse Merchants is the result of them wanting to be one of the first movers.

Let’s move onto how the community can get involved. What’s the entry point to Metaverse Merchants?

It’s moving really fast. We’re looking at holding our pre-mint on January 23, just a week from now. From there, with any luck, the public mint will take place on January 30.

We’ve opted for Polygon for the NFTs. This is because some of the dynamic traits will evolve over time, and those constant updates would end up being a bit taxing on Ethereum.

We’re talking about the price point with the community, and want to make sure we get that spot on. We’ll be doing a modified Dutch auction. The mint price might be a little bit higher than usual, just because the real-world assets behind the NFTs are straight up a little more pricey than what NFTs are currently pushing in the market.

Straight away, there will be value for those involved. Through our modified Dutch auction structure, it doesn’t matter when people get in. Wherever that particular volume mints out, that’ll be the price that everybody pays. We’re trying to keep it very fair there.

What will the max mint of these NFTs be?

We have 20,000 litres of premium rare spirit. Each NFT bestows its holder the rights to personalise a number of releases from that 20,000 litres. If the Dutch auction results in a high price, each holder will end up with quite a considerable amount of liquid. If the price lowers, the allocation will be spread thinner amongst a larger community.

We want to have a large community to ensure there’s a lot of interaction and passionate people involved – yet we want to keep it quite exclusive at the same time. This is the first time anybody outside of the Craft Irish Whiskey Group are controlling this kind of volume of that blend of liquid.

After your mint, what’s next? What time scale can we expect between the date of the mint and bottles being delivered to customers?

It’s entirely up to the holder of the NFT when they decide to release their liquid. One of the biggest challenges we’ve had with Metaverse Merchants is designing a system so that if a holder wants to age their whiskey for 30 years, we can accommodate that.

One of the most notable aged craft Irish whiskeys managed to fetch $60,000 on the market. We’re preparing to go that distance for a single bottle.

What does Metaverse Merchants offer to both traditional whiskey collectors and web3 fans?

For a whiskey collector, this will be the first time they will be able to directly manipulate the blend of whiskey that goes into the bottle. Our collectors will know that their distillation has been overseen by Jay himself, who has produced these world-record holding whiskeys.

For web3 fans, as each holder will likely adjust their own mix of traits, the rarity of their NFT should be even higher. They’ll create different whiskeys from their decisions, whether that’s over 3 years or 30 years.

The bottles that come out of this should be really low run, high rarity. And because of the nature of the liquid, if they end up on a marketplace like BlockBar, you’ll see some records set.

What else do you have planned for Metaverse Merchants across 2024?

We’ve introduced gamification to our trait marketplace. We’ve devised a set of guilds that will educate people about the blending process and the bottling options to encourage community interaction, guided by some really skilled people in the industry. Holders will essentially go on a journey of education on how to improve the value of their holdings as we go.

Naturally, there’ll be some in-person real-life tasting events. There is one earmarked for the 6-year mark. That does sound like a little way down the track, but we do have a roadmap with some other key releases, and Craft Irish Whiskey are already proposing a special collaboration with holders. They’re looking at doing something quite special with the project.

In a broader sense, how do you think the web3 space will progress in 2024?

Oh, look – I certainly don’t have complete confidence in my crystal ball!

I’m really bullish. I see everything moving forward, getting stronger, going further. Short term is not really of interest to me. I’m looking at that 30-year timeframe.

For me, this is where I’ve shifted my entire career. I’ll just be getting more and more involved in the web3 space.

Do you think we’ll see more projects that have solid long-term plans, like you have with Metaverse Merchants?

I actually don’t. I think the space is evolving so quickly at the moment that it’s really challenging to even understand what capabilities are going to exist in a year or two years time. Whilst we’re doing something really innovative right now, by the time 30 years rocks around, I’m sure there are going to be some people cursing me for having such a system in place.

It’ll be an antique in its own right, but look, antiques are collectible as well. And as a first of its kind, hopefully it does influence others to have longer plans.

One of the factors we considered with Metaverse Merchants was that we wanted to see NFTs that held their value for a longer period of time, and we were trying to understand how we could achieve that. By finding a collector’s item that pairs so nicely with the technology, I think we have.

Is there anything you’d like to add? Where should people go to stay in touch with all things Metaverse Merchants?

Follow us on Twitter, and visit our One Mint page to get onto the allowlist. If you’re really keen to get involved, we highly recommend joining our Discord – there’s a great community forming there with plenty of interaction, and we’ll be able to answer any of your questions.

I’m incredibly excited to be able to bring this to market. I love being at the forefront of things, leading a project that will make a real difference to what’s happening in the world. I can’t wait to see what people actually produce from this. It’s going to be astounding.

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