$400,000 of Mezcal NFTs Sold Out in One Hour; We Sat Down With the Brand To Hear the Whole Story
At the American Fine Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, 20 bespoke bottles of NFT mezcal sold out for a staggering $20,000 each within an hour on their opening night.
The brand behind the collection, Kimo Sabe, is part of a burgeoning trend seeking to release limited-edition physical bottles that correspond with lucrative NFTs.
At the forefront of this trend has emerged BlockBar, the go-to site for brands like 1800 Tequila, Johnny Walker Blue Label and Glenfiddich to make a fortune off of this hybrid concept. In January 2022, Hennessy made headlines when it sold its first NFT on the platform for $226,600.
But Kimo Sabe does things a little differently.
The brand describes itself as the “intersection of ancient culture and web 3.0,” a mission statement that has led them to split NFT proceeds with the nomadic Huichol tribe that distills their spirit in Sierra Madre, Jalisco.
We sat down with founder Jim Walsh to understand how the brand envisions the synthesis of cutting-edge technology and centuries-old technique.
Mezcal in Two Worlds
Unexpectedly, the story of Kimo Sabe began when Walsh was introduced to the psychedelic peyote plant by a Huichol shaman in Mexico.
Peyote bears great significance to the Huichol tribe; each year, the Huichol journey through Nayarit, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi to harvest peyote for an annual rebirth ceremony that is said to bring back a life force to heal the world.
At first, Walsh wasn’t quite as lucky — he was bedridden two weeks later after he threw out his back. Lo and behold, that’s when everything clicked.
“The shaman came back to me in a dream holding a wedge of peyote and said ‘take this, it’ll help you.’ I woke up the next morning without a single back pain, completely healed,” said Walsh.
“It was the first and only time I directly experienced the shaman ability to walk between two worlds. At this point I’m sold. I think, this is something that the rest of the world needed to experience, this kind of life force.”
Working with Huichol mezcal distillers in Sierra Madre, Walsh launched Kimo Sabe in 2015. Years later, the brand has arrived at the American Fine Art Gallery in the form of NFTs.
Each of the 20 recently sold bottles is adorned with unique designs by AtZ, an Arizona-based street artist whose acrylic and spray paint-centric work draws inspiration from the likes of Banksy and Andy Warhol. His solo artwork regularly retails for upwards of half a million dollars.
The mezcal contained within these bottles is distilled from a blend of espadin and tequilana agave aged 6 and a half years in first-use American White Oak barrels. Of course, the delicious spirit will likely never be tasted by its collectors.
Locking a valuable spirit away into an investment piece is hardly new, but NFTs add a perplexing dynamic.
The value of collectible bottles has historically been determined by the perceived quality of the spirit within. Nowadays, the value of that investment is slightly more obfuscated; are collectors buying into a spirit, an NFT, or a bottle designed by their favorite artist?
Different NFTs lean on some combination of the three. Within that space mezcal is relatively unique, not distilled in factories but by small-batch artisans. To many, the craft of mezcal itself can be considered the artwork.
“Mezcal is a cultural beverage. It’s as much part of the culture as art is, and Mexico is a very artistically driven country,” said Walsh.
The AtZ collection served as a test launch of sorts. In the coming weeks, Kimo Sabe plans to release 1888 1:1 original bottles adorned with beaded indigenous art inspired by the healing visions of Huichol shamans.
Walsh told us that if the upcoming Sacred Heritage NFT collection sells out, the Huichol tribe will be imbursed around $1 million.
In a world of metaverses, cryptocurrencies and rapidly developing AI, the influence of technology has reached the most unforeseen of places.
Though the market value of NFTs has ebbed and flowed over the past few years, spirits represent an interesting means by which to anchor the value of an investment. Now, it may take decades to see how this next generation of spirits-as-currency stands the test of time.
You can check out the Kimo Sabe Mezcal website here.
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