A bottle of Karuizawa has taken the record for the highest price ever paid at auction for a standard sized bottle of whisky.
A hammer price of HK$750,000 (£63,011) was the winning bid for the Karuizawa 1960 52 Years Old at Bonhams, Hong Kong on August 28 2015. Originally, the Karuizawa 1960 cost £12,500 when the 41 bottles were released in 2013.
Although The Macallan is recognised as holding the World Record for the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold, this was for a much larger six litre decanter. A standard sized bottle of The Macallan has yet to come close to this value at auction. Karuizawa and The Macallan are locked in a titanic battle for the top of the Whisky Magazine Index, with the closed Japanese distillery closing the gap significantly in the run down to the end of the year.
The Bonhams, Hong Kong sale consisted of 386 lots (90 per cent sold by lot) and raised a total hammer price of HK$13 million / £1.1 million of which nearly £527,000 was spent on Karuizawa alone. The record breaking Karuizawa 1960 took the crown from the Bowmore 1964 48 Years Old which sold for £61,000 in October 2013 at the Distiller’s Charity Auction in London, organised by the Worshipful Company of Distillers.
The epic scale of the Bonhams, Hong Kong sale was of such magnitude that it dwarfed every other live auction held in August. More than 80 per cent of the spending was on Japanese whisky, but it wasn’t all spent on Karuizawa. From Yamazaki, there was a bottle of Yamazaki Age Unknown bottled for the Chairman, Keizo Saji, that sold for HK$55,000 / £4,630, just beating the price achieved by Spink, China in June by HK$1,000. A bottle of Yoichi 25 Years Old single cask #112246 fetched HK$11,000 / £925 helping the brand to reach a new best WMI ranking of 65th. Miyagikyo, Hakushu, and Chichibu remain outside the top 100, but Mars made it to 93rd and grain distillery Kawasaki is now sitting 49th. The classic Ichiro’s Choice Kawasaki 1976 from a refill sherry butt took HK$14,000 / £1,175 adding to the already excellent results for this liquid.
The great rival companies of Suntory and Nikka performed extremely well. Nikka is now ranked 27th on the WMI, whilst Suntory broke into the top 25. One of the one thousand bottles of Nikka 40 Years Old hit its mark with a bid of HK$35,000 / £2,945. This notable blend includes Yoichi distilled in 1945 and Miyagikyo distilled in 1969. The stand-out Suntory bottle was, ladies and gentlemen, the Suntory Rolling Stone 50th Anniversary. Its decanter is fashioned to showcase the tongue and lips emblem, based on the iconic logo designed by John Pasche in 1970. The oldest whisky in this blend is a Yamazaki 1962 distilled in the same year that the Rolling Stones were formed. This whisky sold for HK$42,000 / £3,535, though that falls a little below the original retail price from 2012.
Scotch whisky still had an excellent day, with sales exceeding HK$2 million. The Dalmore Eos is one of only 20 decanters produced, and achieved HK$240,000 / £20,200 making it the third highest priced bottle of The Dalmore ever eligible for the WMI. This was originally priced at £13,000 for the 59 Years Old Highland malt in 2011, representing a tidy 55 per cent increase for the 2015 hammer price over a four year period. The Dalmore was £500 more expensive, an older vintage, and more limited than the Karuizawa 1960, though this has made more than a 500 per cent appreciation over two years.
Finally, The Balvenie Cask 191 50 Years Old is a desirable bottle released in 2002, with just 83 bottles available. A vanishingly rare sight at auction, it justifiably made a superb HK$200,000 / £16,830 helping the brand to move up to achieve its best ranking position since December 2012.
Did you know?
Nothing drives on the collector more than a quest to complete the set. Parting with that complete set is an emerging trend at auction and these past 12 months have witnessed the sale of some incredible collections. Marvel at these: a 26 bottle set of Flora & Fauna bottles (£4,000, Scotch Whisky Auctions), those same 26 bottles in the original wooden cases (£6,100, Whisky Auctioneer), a set of ten Octomore bottles (£1,750, Whisky Auctioneer), a set of nine Flora & Fauna Cask Strength bottles (£3,700, Whisky Auctioneer,) and the S.M.W.S. 26 Malts set (£2,900, Scotch Whisky Auctions). These rather pale in comparison to the daddy of collectibles; the impressive 54 bottles of the Hanyu Card Series sold by Bonhams, Hong Kong for HK$3.1million / £260,875.