Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 15 August 2014
Category: Features
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Today a large selection of rare Japanese whiskies and Scotch was offered on auction in Hong Kong. Here is a small selection of some of the more interesting lots, as well as the breathtaking amounts that they fetched.

Auction house Bonhams Hong Kong offered up a massive collection of Japanese and rare collections for auction today at the Bonhams Hong Kong Gallery in Hong Kong. The collection comprised 264 lots, featured 177 lots of Japanese whiskies (the largest collection ever seen in Asia), as well as a number of rare Scotch offerings from brands such as The Macallan, Talisker, and Highland Park. There were also, for some reason, three rums in the auction.

The Japanese whiskies are especially interesting as a large portion are from Karuizawa, a distillery that was founded in 1955. It stopped production in 2000 and closed completely in 2011. The stock that remained was bought by investors and enthusiasts that occasionally bottle limited-edition premium collections, such as some of those that were represented in the auction.

The collection also comprises whisky from Hanyu, which was founded in 1941 by Isouji Akuto and also shut down in 2000. Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of the founder, recovered what was left of the stock and transferred it to a new distillery he has founded, Chichibu. He has subsequently been releasing a sought-after collection of Hanyu whisky under the branding Ichiro's Malt "Card", which features playing cards on the labels.


Japanese Single-Malt Whiskies
Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Karuizawa
Above: The Karuizawa Honor Sumo Triple Set

These three 700ml bottles, which together comprise the Karuizawa Honor Sumo Triple Set of single-malt whiskies, contain whisky that was distilled in 1981, 1982, and 1983 from sherry butts and all three were then bottled in 2013. Each is number 177 of 340. The label art, which runs across the three bottles and together forms one image, is based on an antique painting by Ukiyo-e artist Hachisuka Kuniaki and depicts the ritual that is performed before a sumo contest.

The lot was estimated to be worth HK$38 000 to HK$46 000 (R52 000 to R63 000) but it sold for HK$67 375 (R91 751) including the 22.5% buyer's premium charged by the auction house.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Karuizawa
Above: The Karuizawa 1965 21-year-old single-malt whisky

The Karuizawa 1965 21-year-old single-malt whisky was distilled at Ocean Karuizawa Distillery, during the time when the distillery was managed by a company called Ocean, and bottled in 1986 in a 720ml bottle.

The whisky and its presentation case were estimated to be worth HK$85 000 to HK$115 000 (R120 000 to R160 000) and it sold for HK$104 125 (R141 797) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Yamazaki
Above: The 山崎 Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky Aged 50 Years

山崎 Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky Aged 50 Years is one of 150 bottles. The whisky was bottled in 2011 in a 700ml bottle after maturing in Japanese mizunara oak, which imparts floral and fruity flavours, as well as the more traditional honey, vanilla, and spice notes.

The whisky and its presentation case were estimated to be worth HK$150 000 to HK$190,000 (R200 000 to R260 000) but it sold for much more - HK$257 250 (R350 322) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Karuizawa
Above: The Karuizawa Geisha series

These four bottles from the Karuizawa Geisha series are all single malts matured in sherry butts and presented in 700ml bottles. From left to right they are Karuizawa 1977 Geisha (bottled in 2012, 65.9% abv, one of 427 bottles), Karuizawa 1981 Geisha (bottled in 2012, 56.7% abv, number 330 of 440), Karuizawa 1983 Geisha (bottled in 2013, 62.9% abv, one of 68 bottles), and Karuizawa 1983 Geisha (bottled in 2012, number 264 of 460, 59.4% abv).

The lot was estimated to be worth HK$60 000 to HK$75 000 (R82 000 to R100 000) but it sold for HK$104 125 (R141 797) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Karuizawa
Above: The Karuizawa Noh Whisky 31 Years Old

The Karuizawa Noh Whisky 31 Years Old from 1981 was bottled in 2013 in a 750ml bottle that's one of 196. It matured in a sherry butt and its abv rating is 62.3%.

The whisky was estimated to be worth HK$17 000 to HK$21 000 (R23 000 to R29 000) and it sold for HK$28 175 (R38 368) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Hanyu Ichiro's Malt Card
Above: Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "Card" single-malt series (clubs)

These five Hanyu 700ml bottles are from the Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "Card" single-malt series and feature cards from the suit of clubs. There are a number of lots, comprising either collections or individual bottles, in the auction that feature the Card series and this is one of the most interesting selections.

Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "Card" Five Of Clubs is finished first in a hogshead cask and then Japanese mizunara hogshead oak. It was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2009 at 57.4% abv. Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "Card" Four Of Clubs was first finished in a hogshead cask, followed by a rum cask, and was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2007 at 58% abv. Hanyu Ichiri's Malt "Card" Three Of Clubs was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2009 at 61.1% abv. The first cask was a hogshead cask and then the whisky was finished in two puncheon casks of new American oak. Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "Card" Two Of Clubs was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2007 at 57% abv. Its first cask was a hogshead cask, followed by Japanese mizunara oak. Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "Card" Ace Of Clubs was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2001 at 59.4% abv. Its first cask was a hogshead cask and the second was a puncheon Japanese mizunara oak cask.

The lot was estimated to be worth HK$90 000 to HK$120 000 (R120 000 to R160 000) but it sold for HK$159 250 (R216 866) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Hanyu Ichiro's Malt
Above: Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "Card" Ace Of Spaces

Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "Card" Ace Of Spaces was distilled in 1985 and bottled in 2005. It was first matured in a hogshead cask, followed by a Spanish oak sherry butt.

This particular bottle that was up for auction is number 5 of 122, making it even more rare and special, hence its estimated value of HK$40 000 to HK$50 000 (R54 000 to R68 000). Amazingly, it sold for HK$85 750 (R116 774) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Karuizawa
Above: Karuizawa Vintage Single Cask Malt Whisky Aged 45 Years 黑命の水

These two 700ml bottles of Karuizawa Vintage Single Cask Malt Whisky Aged 45 Years
黑命の水 [Water Shiroinochi] were bottled in 2012 (59.6% abv) and 2013 (62.0% abv) and form a set in wooden presentation cases.

The lot was estimated at being worth HK$70 000 to HK$80 000 (R95 000 to R108 ) but sold for HK$116 375 (R158 479) including the 22.5% buyer's premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Karuizawa
Above: The Karuizawa Toulouse-Lautrec series

This collection of four 700ml single-malt whiskies was packaged by La Maison du Whisky in France for its Karuizawa Toulouse-Lautrec series. The lot comprises a 31-year-old sherry-butt whisky (60.5% abv) distilled in October 1981 and bottled in July 2013, a 32-year-old ex-bourbon-cask whisky (57.3% abv) distilled in February 1981 and bottled in July 2013, a 33-year-old sherry-butt whisky (60.3% abv) distilled in March 1980 and bottled in July 2013, and a 33-year-old ex-bourbon-cask whisky (62.1% abv) distilled in January 1980 and bottled in July 2013.

The four combined were estimated to be worth (HK$50 000 to KH$65 000 (R68 000 to R89 000) but, again, they sold for much more, reaching HK$85 750 (R116 592) including the premium.



Scottish Single-Malt Whiskies
Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: The Macallan
Above: The Macallan 1948 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky Select Reserve

The Macallan 1948 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky Select Reserve was matured in sherry oak starting in winter 1948 and is 51 years old. This is, of course, a very rare whisky that hardly ever comes up for auction and the early date of "20th March", to indicate that this is the only bottle that was bottled that day, is particularly notable.

The whisky, in a 700ml bottle with a wooden tube case, was estimated to be worth HK$115 000 to HK$140 000 (R155 000 to R189 000) and sold for HK$153 125 (R208 200) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: The Macallan
Above: The Macallan The Malt 1950 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

The Macallan The Malt 1950 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky was bottled at 43% abv in a 750ml bottle and comes with the wooden presentation case.

It was correctly estimated to fetch between HK$35 000 and HK$45 000 (R47 000 and R61 000) and sold for HK$49 000 (R66 624) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: The Macallan
Above: The Macallan 1951 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

This 700ml bottle of The Macallan 1951 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky is one of 632 that was bottled at 48.8% abv from two casks that were filled on 20 December 1951 and kept together in the same warehouse for decades.

The whisky was correctly estimated to be worth HK$120 000 to HK$150 000 (R162 000 to R203 000) and sold for HK$147 000 (R199 872) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: The Macallan
Above: The Macallan-Glenlivet Distillery 1938 Decanter With 37 Years Old Scotch Whisky

The auction included a handful of decanters, such as this one, The Macallan-Glenlivet Distillery 1938 Decanter With 37 Years Old Scotch Whisky. The single-malt whisky was distilled in 1938 and bottled in 1975. The Silver Seal Whisky Company then rehoused it in this one-litre German silver and crystal decanter that has been dated to around 1885.

The decanter was estimated to be worth HK$55 000 to HK$70 000 (R74 000 to R95 000) and sold for HK$63 700 (R86 611) including the premium.


Rare Japanese Whiskies Go On Auction In Hong Kong: Highland Park
Above: The Highland Park 42 Years Old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky Decanter

The Highland Park 42 Years Old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky Decanter is another special edition decanter by the Silver Seal Whisky Company. The whisky was distilled in 1967 and bottled in 2009 at 50.3% abv. The Baccarat crystal decanter holds 700ml and has been dated to around 1860.

The decanter was estimated to be worth HK$28 000 to HK$38 000 (R38 000 to R52 ) but sold for HK$49 000 (R66 624) including the premium.



This is just a small selection of the incredible range that was on offer today at the auction. You can browse through the 264 lots on the Bonham's web site to see what else was presented and how much each lot sold for or download the high-quality catalogue (PDF) for a full list and some interesting background information on the Japanese distilleries.

Considering the success of the auction it seems that there is no shortage of enthusiasm (or money) in Asia for investment in rare whisky. Sadly, most of us will just have to admire the beautiful presentations and label artwork via the Internet.


Tags: #arts_and_culture, #whisky





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