Founder Interview: Alex Murray

We sat down with one of Digital Distiller's founders, Alex Murray, to find out more about what the story is behind the name:

Tell us a bit about your background

alex murray

I've worked in both Digital and Food & Drink for over 20 years. I started working for ultra-premium wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd straight out of university. When I completed my Wine and Spirits Diploma in 1999, it gave me an excellent understanding and passion for both the production and business side of wines and spirits.

I was also a very early adopter of all things internet in the late 90s. Even with a basic (slow, often unstable!) connection I could see the opportunities to collaborate with others and share ideas and information. That concept of distributed knowledge was the beginning of a huge power shift back towards the consumers of products and away from opaque brands. 

Why did you create Digital Distiller?

I've had the joy of working with so many producers who are passionate about what they do and who are incredibly skilled at crafting tasty, distinctive drinks.

Since the late nineties, I could see the potential of the internet to bring producers and consumers closer together. But something was still missing for me. Where was the end customer in the production process?

A distiller or winemaker has a wide range of choices when creating a liquid, many of them non-technical. Why shouldn't a community of enthusiasts participate in the process and become instrumental in shaping what gets made?

Early on at Berry Bros., I had to source an Absinthe for our online customers... we could see a clear demand for it in the website search logs. But I had a challenge... absinthe comes in all sorts of styles (and strengths!). I didn't have an easy way to collaborate with absinthe seekers to source the product style they wanted most.

This is a challenge that Digital Distiller can help solve. The community gives the ownership of decisions to those who will eventually end up with the product in their hands.

More importantly, it's incredibly fun to create a new drink... members have a core role in bringing a delicious, interesting and unique product to market.

Digital Distiller's role is to provide the tools to the community to make decisions collaboratively and, importantly, take care of the inevitable, and boring admin that still has to happen to get a drink safely into someone's hands (label compliance, anyone?).

Does the name 'Digital Distiller' imply you are only going to create spirits / liquors?

It is true that there has been a huge explosion in craft distilleries around the globe, which has matched the sharp increase in consumer interest in premium spirits.

Although we are starting by building a portfolio of core spirits, we definitely see opportunities to expand into other drinks, such as non-alcoholic spirits, wines, beers and even soft drinks. Ultimately we want the roadmap to be driven by the community.

Why have you chosen to include NFTs in the proposition?

NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) are a very practical way to create and validate both ownership and membership. As a verifiable digital token, it is also transferable, which is highly unusual for memberships. It also means that if, for any reason, you want to give your membership to someone else (or even sell it), you can.

Ultimately, a holder of the Digital Distiller membership token has provable rights to participate and make key decisions in the life of the community. For example, when it comes to deciding what drinks we are going to make next, which choices will be selected in the production process, how the label looks, what it is called... all of these are community led.

We've worked with a fantastic animator, Ashley Best, to create artwork for the NFTs. Each member automatically gets allocated their own animated character who represents their membership!

What does the future hold for Digital Distiller?

One of the core principles that underpins many Web3 communities is decentralised control. For me, that means giving our community members a strong voice about our future direction.

So, while we have a lot of ideas of what we could do, we really do want to know whether any given idea is something the community wants! More NFT artwork? A spirits subscription service? Investing in specific craft distilleries? The possibilities are endless!

What's your favourite drink / cocktail?

martini lemon twist

My go-to cocktail is a extra dry gin martini lemon twist.

Red wine would be an aged Barolo (preferably with a large hunk of parmesan!).

For a white wine... I love a fat, buttery, oaky Napa Chardonnay.

Beer - I've spent a fair bit of time living in Germany and I'm a big fan of wheat beers from Belgium and Germany - top pick: Franciskaner Hefeweissen with a slice of lemon.

Connect with Alex on Linkedin.