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During Miami Art Week last December, the luxury rum brand Dictador made a splash in the NFT world by selling one of the most expensive bottles of rum in the world for one hundred thousand dollars. The piece was created in collaboration with the artist Richard Orlinski, marking the first time in history that a rum bottle has been wholly encased in an artwork. For its exterior design, Orlinski tapped his signature monkey subject and series “WILD KONG,” while Dictador filled its interior with its high-quality spirit.
Continuing the bottle’s success, Dictador has since released the “Dictador 5 Decade" collection, available on BlockBar. For this series, six limited-edition bottles of rum are offered from aged casks ranging from 1966 to 2006. Upon purchase, the cryptographic version of the bottle will be secure on BlockBar, with an ownership record of authenticity held on the blockchain. The buyer could also claim the real-world physical product or trade the NFT within on the BlockBar platform.
Whitewall spoke with Ken Grier, the Creative Director of Dictador, to hear how this collaboration celebrates fine spirits and contemporary art, what he thinks of the future of NFTs and the metaverse, and what the brand is revealing in 2022.
WHITEWALL: For the Dictador "5 Decade" collection, the brand recently partnered with Richard Orlinski to celebrate his 5 decades of life and encapsulate the rum in a version of his "Wild Kong" sculpture—a first for the rum industry. Why did you want to collaborate with this contemporary artist? What do you feel you have in common?
KEN GRIER: Richard Orlinski is one of the most renowned contemporary sculptors in the world and shares a common philosophy with us through his passion for art, progressive innovation, and appreciation for the avant-garde. Richard sees the world without convention or rule, he is a boundary breaker and continues to create with an unparalleled sense of adventure and imagination.
WW: These six special bottles are aged in casks ranging from 1966 to 2006. Can you describe for us how that changes the flavor, value, and rarity?
KG: Each bottle was sourced from 5 barrels selected to create a unique blend of 5 different decades—1966, 1976, 1986, 1996, and 2006. In total, we used 30 barrels, so each blend is unique. In order to ensure premium flavor, we have artfully crafted the blending process. Each cask has its own taste profile, so we believe that combining their contents, marrying rum from each decade, brings high complexity, vibrancy, structure, and roundness to the flavor. Value stands for the extremely old inventory and from the years of handcrafted work by expert hands. Rarity is based on the use of family reserved casks from 1966 that have never been released before.
WW: The brand also recently ventured into the NFT market, launching two sales based on this collaboration. Can you tell us about this?
KG: We’ve been laying the groundwork for our NFT collaboration for some time now so when the NFT trend increased in popularity, this was our moment to connect with the most tech-savvy and aligned partner. From the beginning, we knew it had to be BlockBar—the biggest NFT platform for spirits brands. BlockBar has been a remarkable partner; together we are creating a new category and pioneering an untapped market where spirits and technology are one.
Dictador was one of the first brands to offer access to a tangible asset with an NFT investment. We did this by storing the physical bottle that corresponds to the NFT in a warehouse in Singapore. It goes without saying, access to a physical asset, with regard to an NFT investment, offers a much more secure proposition than most conventional NFTs.
While we’ve only just launched our first two NFT collaborations with Lalique and Richard Orlinski, it’s important to note that technology has always been a part of Dictador’s story. Long before the crypto craze took over the world, we were planning for this moment. We believe firmly that all our actions and early business decisions, from the past decade, have led us here and made us leaders in the spirits and NFT space.
WW: In December, Dictador sold one of the most expensive bottles of rum in the world for 100 thousand dollars. Why do you think people are so keen to collect and make investments in spirits collaborating with NFTs?
KG: Dictador is one of the most progressive and innovative luxury spirits brands in the world and wanted to be at the forefront of the NFT investment boom. The combination of a world-renowned art partner producing a one-off piece, the authentic 5 decades story behind our rum, and access to a tangible asset, made for an unbeatable combination that served to encourage this sale. Launched at Art Basel, this NFT distinguished Dictador as the definitive Arthouse spirits brand. By offering the purchaser a 1 of 25, unique Richard Orlinski hand-made work of art, as well as distinctive digital representation, and access to the physical form of the digital item, we created an NFT investment that was uniquely secure and desirable.
As it pertains to Dictador, we feel that people are eager to invest in our NFTs as we uniquely offer access to a physical item. Thus, should the consumer ever decide they no longer want the NFT, they can redeem it for the physical spirit. For NFT skeptics everywhere, we’ve created a space in which they do not have to accept that an entity only exists in the metaverse. Moreover, owning a full NFT collection poses an opportunity for great financial gain; consequently, NFTs are a tempting investment whether you are a collector or a curious consumer.
WW: You launched an NFT sale in November and then another shortly after in December. Did the success of the first propel the second? Will there be another?
KG: The outstanding success of our November NFT sale of 10 Lalique en Generations decanters—all of which sold in a matter of hours for 25 thousand dollars and one of which sold for 36 thousand dollars shortly thereafter—gave us the confidence to explore this exciting new channel further. The Orlinski 100 thousand dollar sale is a testament to that and set a new benchmark in luxury rum pricing.
Yes, absolutely. Each of our projects is built on the success of another. NFTs are surely here to stay for Dictador. Our next big goal is to establish an NFT membership concept, and we are so excited to bring it to life.
WW: What intrigues you about the NFT world? The metaverse at large?
KG: We believe it is not about hype, current trends, or fashion. NFTs and the metaverse are the future. Dictador is indelibly fused to this space and our goal is to continue to create tailored offerings for our clients and investors who are thinking ahead.
By observing the industry and engaging with clients and high-end spirits collectors, we know that a traditional, non-digital offering is simply not enough to compete in today's world. We are answering a market need and staying ahead of the curve. We are living in a dynamic reality—technology shifts by the minute and we want to make sure that as the world moves forward, we are too. This strategy also lends itself perfectly to the growth and increase in popularity of the metaverse. We are putting a product into the physical world that is also adaptable to the digital world. As consumers more frequently wish to partake in a free arena where they can interact with others, enjoy astounding new experiences, and sample the privileges of an enhanced second life, we are ensuring that we have a stake in that space too.
In the last five years, rum growth exceeded whisky growth. It is now the fastest-growing spirit category. In the UK alone, premium-and-above rum volumes have climbed by 140 percent in five years. Rum was the only popular spirit that didn’t have a premium category sector until now. NFTs are here to stay and in many respects, rum is dominating the marketplace in the same timeline as the NFT boom. They are a perfect pair!
WW: What do you feel makes Dictador different than other rum brands?
KG: Our DNA. We aim to be culturally iconic; to do seemingly impossible things. We are pioneers and strive to reach new depths far beyond the conventions of our industry. We are connected to nature, but also technology, in a way that no spirit brand has been before. We respect and appreciate the past and our history, but we live in and for the future. Deeply knowledgeable and passionate about art; we are much more than a spirit, rather we are a connector of people and facilitators of style, panache, and culture.
Dictador is a fearless trailblazer. We’re a little crazy but always intentional in our pursuits. Most of all, we are Blue Ocean Leaders—we aim to create an uncontested market space with no barriers to our limitless talent for innovation. There are no true competitors, we can be the first movers in this new ultra-premium Arthouse spirits arena, setting the marketing rules and price points with enormous scope to introduce new ideas.
WW: What’s on the horizon for Dictador in 2022?
KG: 2022 is an exciting year for Dictador! We have so many creative projects in store.
We established our initiative, TOTEM, to preserve cultural diversity, launch original projects, encourage traditionalism in art, and honor global artists and their techniques. Under the umbrella of TOTEM, we previously launched Wixárika, our collection of hand-decorated bottles by the Huichol Indians from Mexico. This year, we will launch our new collection, MOPA MOPA.
Through Wixárika and now MOPA MOPA, we have the opportunity to support and partner with local craftspeople around the world. This is an essential component of our Arthouse DNA. Our MOPA MOPA collection will see us working with local Colombian craftsmen on a unique, very limited series of marquetry bottles, demonstrating a much-coveted local art, teamed with a very rare and collectible rum.
We also intend to build on the huge success of our valued relationship with Lalique and explore new frontiers working with some of the coolest, most highly rated contemporary artists globally. As part of our commitment to developing street and locally originated Arthouse pieces, we will launch the Dictador Art Masters initiative. This project will stem from our relationship with #ArtDistilled, the contemporary street art museum located in the heart of the Colombian Jungle.
Last but certainly not least, we will launch new editions of the "Dictador 2 Masters" project. These will focus on highlighting the knowledge and expertise of rum blenders from across the globe.
Every Dictador initiative to date has sold out at the initial release and has become highly collectible. The future looks so bright! We look forward to continuing to build relationships with renowned, global artists and collaborating to offer something special for everyone from art lovers to rum collectors, and fans.