Queensland Distillery ‘Top Shelf’ Set to NFT Tequila Plants

November 13, 2021, 9:30 AM AEST - 2 weeks ago

Australian agave plants pre-purchasable as NFTs are to be turned into tequila and mezcal for thirsty collectors, bringing new meaning to the expression “the early bird gets the worm”.

Victorian-based spirits distiller Top Shelf International (TSI) is raising A$35 million to construct Australia’s first integrated spirit distillery and agave farm near Airlie Beach in North Queensland.

With production slated to begin in mid-2023, TSI has distributed 100 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to allow speculators to pre-purchase agave plants that will wind up as bottled spirits.

The new distillery will have capacity to make 1.5 million bottles of Agave spirit per year, and will make Top Shelf the world’s largest distiller of agave spirit outside Mexico.

Half a Million Plants Already Growing

At full capacity, the Airlie operation will place TSI among the top 25 agave producers in the world. The company already has 500,000 agave plants in the ground or in nursery.

In the US, tequila is on track to become the third-largest spirit category by 2024. Australians are the world’s third-largest consumers of tequila per head after the US and Mexico.

TSI executive chairman Adem Karafili describes the NFT offer as “a great way to introduce people to a brand that hasn’t been released yet”, adding that owners will be able to visit TSI’s agave farm to see their plants. “We have drone footage already, so they can choose their plants and watch them grow over the next 18 months.”

Eden Lassie agave farm, near Airlie Beach, North Queensland. Source: TSI

More than 230,000 agave plants have already germinated at the 400-hectare Eden Lassie farm at Airlie Beach. Each NFT owner will end up with the rights to 10 plants, which will ultimately deliver about 50 bottles and a 10-litre magnum.

Each Bottle Individually Distilled

“Each one of those bottles will undergo its own distillation process and is very much personalised,” Karafili says. “We can age it for you or you can leave it in the black oak [barrel].”

We just found [NFTs] was a great way for people to actually own something well in advance of being able to get their hands on the bottle, to build some excitement … We thought bringing an element of technology was a great way to introduce provenance and the terroir, and really connect people with the ground in which the plants are being grown.

Adem Karafili, executive chairman, TSI

Last month, Glenfiddich became the first premium single-malt Scotch whisky brand to launch spirits products as NFTs. A week later, Barossa Valley winemaker Dave Powell launched an entire vintage as drinkable NFTs.

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