Oldest Ever Japanese Whisky Goes To Auction At Bonhams

In 2019, we saw the Ichiro’s Malt Card Series break records at Bonhams HK to become the most expensive single lot of Japanese whisky of all time. Now, 2020 will see another iconic bottling go to auction, as the oldest ever Japanese whisky is set to go on sale at the same auction house tomorrow, August 21st.

The beautiful Yamazaki 55 Year Old is one of two Japanese whiskies to be auctioned off that have been aged for 55 years, making them the oldest Japanese expressions on the market today. The other is the Saburomaru 1960 55 Year Old. 

The Yamazaki expression will surely be the star of the show, which is no easy feat at an auction that also includes several rare Karuizawa bottles, and highly sought after bottles of Scotch from the likes of the Macallan distillery. 

Distilled in 1960, the Yamazaki 55 was then matured in a mizunara cask until 1964, when it was transferred to a white oak cask for the remainder of the maturation process. 1964 was the year that hosted the previous Tokyo Olympics, making this a rather timely release from Suntory, in a year that was meant to see athletes and sports fans from around the world descend on Tokyo once more. 

It comes housed inside a stunning black box, hand-crafted from mizunara wood, with the bottle featuring gold dusting and a handmade Echizen Washi wrap, tied with a traditional Kyoto braided cord. This all combines to create a truly premium, super-luxurious bottling. 

The bottle is one of the rarest and most unique of its kind and it’s estimated that it will sell for somewhere in the region of HK$580,000 – 780,000 (US$75k – $106k). Even if the bottle reaches the top end of its estimation, it won’t come close to the previously mentioned record, set by the Ichiro’s Malt Card Series in 2019, which sold for a whopping $7,192,000 (US$0.92m). However, this is more than understandable given the iconic Card Series is made up of 54 different expressions. 

Bonhams’ director of Wine & Spirits Asia, Daniel Lam stated: “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.”

Tomorrow’s auction will, of course, be carried out in accordance with government guidelines on Covid-19, meaning that bids may have to be submitted online, by phone, or by leaving an absentee bid.

Other bottles set to go on sale include the previously mentioned Saburomaru 1960 55 Year Old (estimate: HK$70,000 – HK$90,000), the Karuizawa 1974 40 Year Old #4560 Blue Geisha and #3626 Gold Geisha editions (estimate: HK$200,000 – HK$300,000), the Macallan Lalique 55 Year Old (estimate: HK$700,000 – HK$900,000) and the Bowmore 1955 40 Year Old (estimate: HK$150,000 – HK$200,000).

With such a star-studded lineup, all eyes are sure to turn to Bonhams HK tomorrow, we know we’ll be watching. 

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