Karuizawa has rocketed into the top 25, becoming the highest placed non-Scotch whisky in WMI history. The cult, closed Japanese distillery, adored for its robust sherry matured style, has climbed the ranks all year and made the breakthrough this month. The bottles released by Number One Drinks Company represents the last few hundred casks saved following the distillery’s closure in 2000. Karuizawa has secured 14th place, moving into the WMI’s top league following a stunning performance at auction by Bonhams, Hong Kong.
A year ago, the WMI eligibility criteria widened which opened up the index, as trading in other whisky categories began to grow. Look carefully and you will spot not one, but two new entries, as Pappy Van Winkle jumped up to 23rd. The colossal interest in bourbons from the closed Stitzel-Weller distillery, magnified by recent shortages of Pappy’s at the stores, has led to massive competition when small parcels of stock appear at auction. Christies, New York though more crucially, the April auction at Bonhams, New York, helped propel Van Winkle bottles up thirteen places. Bunnahabhain and Linkwood were the casualties, knocked out of the top 25 by the new entries. With Old Fitzgerald ranked 38th and Yamazaki zooming up to 40th, it may just be the beginning of a reshuffle in the rankings.
The average price of Karuizawa at live auction currently sits at £1,167 per bottle, making it the third highest value whisky behind The Macallan and The Dalmore. There were almost too many Karuizawa highlights to mention, with 46 eligible bottles and several other multi-bottle lots. If they had been sold individually, could Karuizawa have reached the top ten? One of the rare bottles sold at Bonhams, Hong Kong that was not bottled by Number One Drinks was a Karuizawa 1967 21 Year Old from the 1980s when the distillery was run by Ocean Co. which sold for HK$80,000 (£6,130). A bottle of Karuizawa 45 Years Old from sherry butt No.2725 reached HK$32,000 (£2,133). The majority of the top prices were paid for single cask vintages from the 1970s and 1980s, with premiums being paid for editions originally released in Europe rather than Asia.
The reputation of Bonhams, Hong Kong amongst vendors and buyers is growing year on year with a dizzying array of top prices paid in May. This was truly a golden sale, which helped the WMI achieve a record value. The Macallan Fine And Rare 1969 32 Years Old sold for HK$70,000 (£5,364), and the Fine and Rare 1952 made HK$100,000 (HK$7,662) delivering the quality investment this series always promised. The limited edition art piece of The Macallan 8 Decades by Sir Peter Blake containing eight miniatures of The Macallan dating as far back as 1937 sold for HK$75,000 (£5,749), falling short of the £6,600 secured by Scotch Whisky Auctions in April. Then there were three bottles of The Macallan Lalique: firstly, the 57 Years old, the third in the series, which sold for HK$220,000 (£16,858), then the 60 Years Old, made HK$250,000 (£19,157) and finally, the 62 Years Old, the newest edition in the series, romped away with HK$350,000 (£26,820).
The Dalmore Candela 50 Years Old is a rare sight at auction and its sale for HK$170,000 (£13,027) helped the distillery to achieve its highest WMI ranking since March 2011. This saleroom has become the best place to find a bottle of Gordon & MacPhail Generations Glenlivet 70 Years Old, and this time, one sold for HK$165,000 (£12,643). The Yamazaki 50 Years Old at a tidy HK$200,000 (£15,325), far in excess of the previous auction record held by McTear’s. The quirky, unique decanters filled by the Silver Seal Whisky Company reached sizeable sums; The Macallan 1977 33 Years Old took HK$35,000 (£2,682), a hand grenade of a decanter of Highland Park 1974 31 Years Old held HK$32,000 (£2,452) and a Port Ellen 1979 30 Years Old in a Michelangelo Baccarat Crystal decanter achieved HK$38,000 (£2,911). Hong Kong: simply stunning.
Manager of Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop, 172 Canongate, Edinburgh
What whisky have you bought to keep?
I have a black label Brora 1972 bottled by the Whisky Shop; the zenith of my collection.
What whisky will you sell or open soon?
A Springbank light rum and Springbank fresh rum – there were only about 60 bottles produced.