Japanese Whiskies Fetch Impressive Fees At Bonhams HK

Last week’s auction at Bonhams Hong Kong saw a number of old and rare bottles, including some outstanding Japanese expressions, pull in huge sales, with the total value of sales exceeding 32 million Hong Kong dollars (over 4 million USD).

Japanese whisky has experienced huge growth in recent years, solidifying its place as a modern-day commodity, with private investors and collectors alike having to pay increasingly large sums to get their hands on the rarest bottles.

The most expensive bottle to go at the auction was still one produced in Scotland, rather unsurprisingly at the hugely popular Macallan distillery, but Japanese expressions from Karuizawa and Hanyu also fetched impressive fees.

A 1928 Macallan 50 Year Old went for around $191,000 USD. This didn’t get close to challenging the 1926 60 Year Old expression, also from Macallan, that went for $1.1 million at Bonhams Edinburgh auction in October of last year, but it’s an imposing sum nonetheless.

As for the Japanese whiskies, five bottles including Karuizawa 16 and 18 Year Olds, Hanyu 2000 ‘Bar Keller’ and a bottle of Kawasaki 1980 33 Year Old were sold for around $118,000, while a single bottle of Hanyu ‘9 of Hearts’ from Ichiro’s Malt Card Series went for $60,000.

These sales once again highlight the collectibility, provenance and increasing popularity of whisky from Japan’s silent distilleries.

Daniel Lam, Bonhams’ Director of Wine & Spirits, Asia, commented: “We are pleased with the result: a sale total of HK$32.5million with top prices led by early Scotch whiskies and the Japanese ‘Ghost Series’ in seven bottles.

“Over 90% of the whisky buyers are private collectors, showing that market confidence continues to be strong. Once again, the sale attracted global participation spanning America, Europe and Asia, with interest from not only Greater China, but also from new whisky markets in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam and Malaysia.”

The continued market confidence that Lam speaks of shows no signs of slowing down and now all eyes will be on the upcoming Bonhams auctions in Edinburgh, on June 5th, and Hong Kong, on August 16th.

Whether Japanese whisky can challenge the oldest bottles of Scotch remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t be wholly surprising if a particularly rare bottle of Karuizawa or Hanyu got close.