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Japanese whisky set new world auction records

Last Friday (21 August 2020) at Bonhams Fine & Rare Wine and Whisky Sale in Hong Kong, a bottle of Yamazaki 55 year-old was sold for HK$6,200,000 (£605,244), establishing a new world record for a bottle of Japanese whisky sold at auction.

Auction house Bonhams held a fine wine and whisky auction in Hong Kong last week. Star of the show was a bottle of Yamazaki 55 Year-Old whisky, with a pre-sale estimate of HK$580,000 – 780,000. in the end, however, the bottle realised HK$6,200,000, which was more than ten times the estimate.

The result, however, was not surprising to whisky enthusiasts as this single-malt blockbuster was released only in June this year by Suntory. Limited to 100 bottles, each bottle was retailed at 3 million JPY (approximately US$27,500) before tax and customers could only purchase via a lottery system applicable only to residents from within Japan.

Yamazaki 55 Years was distilled in the 1960s and it is the oldest Japanese whisky available in the market. It was matured in both Japanese Mizunara oak casks from 1960 and white oak cask from 1964, the year of the previous Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Distilled to 46% ABV, it is described as having a deep reddish amber colour with a complex nose and a sweet aftertaste. 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 and Whisky, Asia, commented: “The stunning price sets a new milestone for the market of Japanese whisky, a testament to collectors’ desire and determination to acquire the very best the market has to offer. We are pleased to see a keen demand for Scotch whisky in today’s sale as well.”

This new record easily exceeded the previous record for a bottle of Karuizawa 52 Year-Old Cask #5627 Zodiac Rat 1960, which sold at a Sotheby’s sale in London in March 2020 for £363,000 .

As a high performer in whisky auctions, Bonhams currently holds three world auction records in the whisky category, namely the world auction record for a Japanese whisky collection (Hanyu Ichiro’s Full Card Series (in 54 bottles) which sold for HK$7,192,000 in August 2019), the world auction record for a whisky cask (Refill European Sherry Hogshead Cask from Macallan Distillery – sold for HK$4,464,000 in November 2019) and this latest world auction record.

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