Oldest Japanese whisky on offer at Bonhams’ August sale

Due to be held on 21 August in Hong Kong, Bonhams’ latest auction will be headlined by the Yamazaki 55-Year-Old, which has an estimate of HK$580,000–$780,000.

The whisky is not only the distillery’s oldest expression of the distillery, it’s also the oldest Japanese whisky in history.

Freshly released in June this year by Suntory via a customer lottery system, applicable only to those resident in Japan, the bottle was distilled in the 1960s and produced in a limited edition of just 100 bottles. It is five years longer-matured than Yamazaki-50 Year Old, which has set the world auction record on several occasions over the years for a single bottle of Japanese whisky.

Founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii in southwestern Kyoto, the Yamazaki Distillery is Japan’s first commercial whisky distillery.

The Yamazaki-55 Year Old was matured in both Japanese Mizunara oak cask from 1960 and a white oak cask from 1964, the year of the previous Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Bottled at 46% ABV, it has a deep reddish amber colour and is said to have a complex agarwood and sandalwood nose, rich in fruity scents with a sweet after-taste. The gold-dusted bottle is housed in a black Mizunara oak box with Suruga lacquer. The bottle mouth is wrapped in handmade Echizen Washi and tied with a traditional Kyoto braided cord.

Daniel Lam, Bonhams’ director of Wine & Spirits, Asia, commented: “We are thrilled to be the first international auction house to offer this historic and extremely popular bottle to the worldwide audience, which already has a strong appetite for the finest Japanese whisky. One of only 100 that were produced, this amber joy by one of the most prestigious whisky distilleries is as rare as its quality is unmatched.”

Previously, Bonhams set a new world auction record for a single lot of Japanese whisky, with Hanyu Ichiro’s Full Card Series selling for HK$7,192,000 in August 2019.

Along with the Yamazaki-55 Year Old, a bottle of Saburomaru 1960 55-year-old will also be showcased in the auction. They are the two oldest Japanese whiskies currently available to the market. Other wine and spirits highlights of the sale include Macallan Lalique 55-Year-Old, Karuizawa 1974 (40-year-old) Blue Geisha and Karuizawa 1974 (40-year-old) Gold Geisha and Bowmore 1955 (40-year-old), a DRC assortment case from 1999 (12 bottles), Echezeaux, Henri Jayer 1995 (six bottles) and La Tâche DRC, 2003 & 2006 (6 bottles owc).

As the city is in its third wave of Covid-19 infections and the government has enforced intense social distancing measures, review and bidding for the August sale will be done in accordance with the latest government guidelines. This includes the option of a ‘behind-closed-doors’ auction, where an auctioneer will be present on the rostrum, and bids will be accepted in the following formats: online, on the phone, or by leaving an absentee bid.

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