Glenlivet have partnered with online retailer The Whisky Exchange to release a range of 50 Year Old whiskies exclusively through a new, blockchain-enabled digital marketplace.

Called The Glenlivet: The Twelve Elements, the collection will be composed of twelve bottles. Each bottle is named after one of the twelve ‘elements’ that go into crafting the well-loved Speysider. Some names come from the practical aspects of whisky making, like Copper, Distillers and Wood, while other names are inspired by the more metaphysical aspects such as Time or The Angels Share.

Every bottle will feature unique artwork relating to the ‘element’ they are named after.

These whiskies have been maturing since 1974 and will be bottled later this year. Two of the finest casks within Glenlivet’s enviable warehouses were chosen to craft these 50 Year Old expressions. Drawn from a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel and a refill hogshead, these whiskies are said to promise notes of caramel, rich toasted oak and ginger spice.

The collaboration will be the first release to be sold through The Whisky Exchange Cabinet. This new online marketplace will allow users to buy, sell and collect some of the world’s finest and most rare spirits in an entirely secure and traceable way.

Purchases through the platform will be stored by The Whisky Exchange at a UK-based high-security, climate controlled facility. Ownership will be determined through a transferable digital certificate - a “smart contract” -, but users can choose to physically redeem their bottle if they choose to.

The announcement of the ultra-rare collection and the collaboration with The Whisky Exchange comes as part of The Glenlivet’s 200th anniversary celebrations. The whiskies will go on sale 21st February with an initial selling price of €40,000 per bottle. Potential buyers can also use cryptocurrency to make their purchase.

Glenlivet’s cask expert Kevin Balmforth has said these whiskies and how they will be sold “represent a look to the future and offer whisky enthusiasts worldwide a foray into the evolution of luxury investments.”

One question immediately comes to mind: what’s the point?

I’m very aware that I’m straying into ‘old man yells at cloud’ territory (isn’t a Bored Ape something you’d see in an Attenborough documentary?), but there’s something about this venture that feels as if it’s cutting out a lot of the joy of whisky.

Firstly, how many of these whiskies will be opened and enjoyed? This criticism can’t be directed at Glenlivet alone, but at 40k a bottle it’s hard to imagine any of these drams getting, well, drammed. Most whisky makers insist their whisky is made to be drunk, and there are many who consider the idea of sealed bottles hidden away in a store room to be something of a tragedy.

Alternatively many people intentionally don’t open every bottle they buy. A lot of whisky enthusiasts are avid collectors. While I personally don’t have a massive collection, I can see the appeal in starting one. Having a number of impressive bottles on hand as a point of pride in the way a music lover would show off and care for their record collection is a rather romantic and fun idea.

And similar to a record or art collection, one’s whisky collection can tell a tale, be that the story of your own personal connection with whisky or a snapshot of the history of whisky itself.

Although users do have the option to receive their whisky, The Whisky Exchange Cabinet and other blockchain marketplaces are actively limiting the opportunity for this ‘fun’ side of whisky, reducing Scotch to the cold art of simply buying and selling.

Again, this isn’t anything ‘new’. The whisky industry has an impressive secondary market and flipping whisky - the act of buying whisky just to immediately resell it for a quick profit - is a common practice.

Additionally The Glenlivet aren’t the first brand to get involved with blockchain technology. Chivas Brothers (owners of Glenlivet) have previous experience using blockchain to trace cask sales, while Monkey Shoulder, Johnnie Walker and The Macallan have also dabbled in the world of digital assets.

Nevertheless it still feels like a hollow gimmick. The inherently fun and human element of whisky is missing. This feeling only increases when you factor in the fact that the artwork for The Glenlivet’s labels was generated by AI.

There will of course be folks for whom this news is cause for excitement and celebration. The use of blockchain technology eases some of the issues faced when selling luxury whisky such as authenticity. Also, since the whisky is being in theory being permanently stored in the one location, you remove the risk of thousands of pounds worth of whisky getting lost, damaged or stolen.

Despite my reservations, Glenlivet’s experiment with blockchain doesn’t herald the end of whisky as we know it, so my inner idealist can settle down. As things are, it seems blockchain is being reserved for premium, super-limited whiskies that are priced well beyond my spending power anyway. Almost all whisky is still being made and sold the ‘traditional’ way, so I don’t need to become a full blown crypto-bro to enjoy a dram.