The Martial Way Distilled in New Set of Rare Japanese Whisky

As recent data shows the rare Japanese whisky market in good health in spite of the pandemic, a private label bottling of rare Karuizawa single malt, featuring hand-painted street art inspired by Japanese modern martial arts, has just been unveiled by luxury spirits retailer dekantā.

November 12, 2020

TOKYO — Each of the bottles in The Budō Collection – Karuizawa 35 Year Old (1981 – 2017) #7147 Japanese Single Cask Whisky (45,000 USD; 3-bottle set; 51.00% ABV; 70cl) features art from one of three Japanese street artists, individually hand-painted by the original artists, and inspired by one of three modern Japanese martial arts: Kendo, Karate and Sumo. Budō is a Japanese term to describe martial arts, and translates literally to ‘The Martial Way’. The name was chosen to celebrate the dedication to craft which is shared by martial arts practitioners, street artists and master distillers alike.

Each bottle in the collection was hand-painted and signed by one of three Japanese street artists with a background in martial arts: PHIL (Founder of SCA-Crew, a group of prominent street artists who work between Tokyo and Kanagawa) depicts a Yokozuna in stance for the Sharanui style of opening ceremony; FATE (Also of SCA-Crew) represents Kendo with an abstract design that incorporates details such as the Shinai sword and the Japanese dragonfly; and TwoOne (Yokohama-born contemporary artist who is recognised globally for his large-scale mural works) depicts controversial karate master Masutatsu Ōyama, founder of Kyokushin Karate.

The martial arts influence extends to the display on which the bottles sit: “Our stand takes influence from traditional outdoor Sumo Dohyō and traditional Japanese roof structures, but with a modern twist,” said Stu Cox, Head of Design at dekantā. “We thought it was fitting to place these spectacular bottles, filled with liquid from the iconic Karuizawa distillery, at the centre of our arena; the place where the culmination of years of training and dedication are put to the test under the eyes of the attentive audience.”
This release from dekantā is likely to be among the very final casks from Karuizawa to be bottled. Closed since 2000, Karuizawa distillery has enjoyed increased interest in its produce as it has become more scarce. As global interest in Japanese whisky has grown in recent years, demand for stock from the closed Karuizawa distillery has increased dramatically, along with the price of the remaining bottles, which have reached prices in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the secondary market. Since experiencing a slight dip in early 2018, the value of Karuizawa (according to the distillery index compiled by has been steadily increasing: it now sits second from top of the distillery indices at 378.56, behind only Rosebank (388.44) and ahead of Hanyu (362.37), Yamazaki (326.48) and Macallan (288.89).
Recent auction sales provide further indication that the appetite for Karuizawa whisky is strong. In March 2020, a bottle of Karuizawa 52 Year Old (1960) Zodiac Rat Cask #5627 sold for 435,273 USD at Sotheby’s London, making it the most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky ever sold at auction. “From what we’ve seen in the past eight years, and even this year under the Covid lockdown, it’s clear people are still collecting, buying and drinking Japanese whisky,” said Daniel Lam, Wine & Spirits Specialist at Bonhams Hong Kong. “We are also seeing new groups of people collecting Japanese whisky; it’s becoming a trend. The market is going to be very healthy in the future.” This is a trend that extends to the wider drinks industry, as new forecasts by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis indicate the global drinks industry has enjoyed a better than expected performance in 2020. 

“This collection has been many years in the making, intended to celebrate the craft of Japanese modern martial arts, and draw parallels between the discipline of their practice and that of artists and master distillers in Japan,” said Makiyo Masa, Founder and Director of dekantā. “With that in mind, the collection has gained new significance in light of a year in which so many sporting, art and cultural events have sadly been cancelled.”

The Budō Collection – Karuizawa 35 Year Old (1981 – 2017) #7147 Japanese Single Cask Whisky is a limited edition of only 129 bottles, comprising 43 sets of three bottles each, available only at Bottles will go on sale on Thursday 19 November 2020 at 10am EST / 3pm UTC and will begin shipping immediately.

Notes to Editors:
dekantā Founder Makiyo Masa, Head of Design Stu Cox and Head of Content Liam Hiller are available for interview. Please RSVP to arrange, Miriam Rune: / +44 7740 339 628.
dekantā Newsroom:
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High resolution photography is available on request, and from our online press pack.

About dekantā
dekantā offers the world’s largest online selection of authentic Japanese spirits with an inventory of over 2,000 products, and, since the opening of its online store in 2015, has shipped more than 20,000 bottles to customers around the world. A family owned and run business, dekantā’s founders have been selling collectibles since 1985 and specialize in rare, collectible, and new release single malt Japanese whisky. dekantā offers worldwide delivery on an extensive range of Japanese single malt whisky, Japanese grain whisky and Japanese blended whisky, in addition to a range of World Blended Whiskies. More recently, Japanese wine has been introduced through the dekantā Cellar, and spirits from wider Asia through dekantā Oriental.

About the Karuizawa Distillery
Karuizawa produced a rich, powerful and heavily sherried single malt that was initially used in blends, mainly sold under the Mercian Co’s ‘Ocean’ brand. The first Karuizawa single malt was released in 1972; however, the lack of demand for Japanese single malt, at home and abroad, meant the business wasn’t sustainable. Since Karuizawa closed its doors in 2000, global demand for Japanese whisky has grown, resulting in a renewed interest in Karuizawa liquid. A combination of scarce stock and high demand has resulted in the price of the remaining bottles increasing dramatically, achieving prices in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the secondary market.

About Street Artist TWOONE – Karate Bottle
A Japanese contemporary artist whose work stands out for its embodiment of hybridity. It blurs polarities such as East and West, studio practice and street art, representation and abstraction. Since his major first solo exhibition “1000 Can Show”, TWOONE has garnered international recognition and has exhibited his versatile artworks in galleries and museums across the globe. His work consists of painting, sculpture, installation, performance art, sound and large scale murals.

About Street Artist FATE – Kendo Bottle
Inspired by street art, FATE started painting graffiti in 1994 and has worked mainly in Tokyo and Kanagawa. He has been invited to participate in many art exhibitions at home and abroad, and has collaborated with various companies and contributed his murals on the exterior and interior of a lot of public and commercial facilities. By multiplying the graffiti style he developed on the streets for many years and the design created from his abundant experience, he expresses “characters, materials and things” in a geometrical and multifaceted way using his own interpretation.

About Street Artist PHIL – Sumo Bottle
In 1993, PHIL started producing mural paintings using a spray can in Kanagawa. He has left a number of impressive works on local streets, with a unique style of painting driven by a mixture of graffiti and Japanese animated cartoons which have influenced him since childhood. PHIL is responsible for forming the well-known SCA-Crew, a group of prominent street artists who have become well-known around Japan, and have even had some of their work featured on the international stage.
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