The mighty Karuizawa continues to set auction records in Hong Kong and the UK. Currently, the Samurai and Geisha bottlings are the most sought after editions making regular auction appearances with prices climbing. In the UK-based online auctions especially, the value of limited edition Karuizawa released three to ten years ago seems to be trapped, like a spider under a glass. No matter what auction they are consigned to, the price appears to have found its natural plateau with prices stable, or slightly deflating, over the past to nine to 12 months. The market remains strong, but buyers are only willing to risk paying the current market value for these bottles. The Karuizawa Noh 1976 32 Years Old Cask #6719 sold for £2,600 in Scotch Whisky Auction’s 47th auction in March 2015, and made £2,700 in the 62nd auction in June 2016. Karuizawa Noh 1983 28 Years Old Cask #7576 reached £2,100 in their 50th auction, but had fallen to £1,850 in their 61st auction. As Karuizawa single malt whisky rarely escapes from its glass prison these days, we are now firmly in the era of Karuizawa ownership as a medium to long-term investment.
April’s most lucrative live auction was the first of the Polyauction sales for 2016, which racked up over £435,000 of bottles eligible for the WMI. The balance fell in favour of Japanese whiskies, though the major brand Scotch whiskies made a decent showing. There were eight bottles that broke the equivalent of the £10,000 barrier: the top bottle was the Karuizawa Samurai 30 Years Old Cask #3139 which sold for HK$450,000/£40,800. Polyauction sold one of these bottles for £3,600 in October 2015, making this recent sale a remarkable achievement, which delivered a staggering rate of return. Meanwhile, Karuizawa 50 Years Old 1963 made HK$280,000/£25,400, the Karuizawa 48 Years Old 1964 gathered HK$220,000/£20,000 (a value that places it at the top end of the market), and another Karuizawa Samurai 30 Years Old, this time cask #8354, which took HK$120,000/£10,900. The Macallan in Lalique 62 Years Old made HK$260,000/£23,600 (somewhat less than the sum achieved at Dragon 8 in February) and The Macallan 1946, 56 Years Old took HK$190,000/£17,200. A single bottle of Port Ellen 1979 First Release 22 Years Old bottled in 2001 sold for a record HK$230,000/£20,800, smashing all previous records for Port Ellen and this particular bottle by some considerable margin. Finally, one of those gorgeous bottles of The Balvenie 50 Years Old 1937 changed hands for HK$120,000/£10,900, a year since Polyauction sold their last bottle of this exceptionally rare prize. With the operation of whisky investment funds in Hong Kong, don’t forget that some of the top prices paid may represent the acquisition of these bottles as a commodity to be traded in the future by the fund holders. It will be fascinating to monitor whether the price spike on the Port Ellen First Release has any implications on the hammer prices for this rarity in other auctions.
Are you still wondering why Overholt Rye Whiskey is riding so high on the WMI? The answer lies with Christies, New York; they have sold large quantities of quart and pint bottles of this pre-Prohibition Pennsylvanian rye for large sums of money over the past year. This, as you probably know, is the secret to success on the WMI. A dozen quart bottles of 1908 distillate, bottled as the 1911 vintage sold for $10,000/£7,000. In addition to the Overholt, the last sale included a number of bin-soiled cases from the 1960s of Old Taylor Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Wight’s Maryland Straight Rye Whiskey. Given the global interest in American whiskey, it’s a great time to sell on those family heirlooms.
Did you know?
Whisky Auctioneer set a new online whisky record in May. The Perth based business managed to deliver a highly exciting auction topped by the £49,000 sale of the complete range of ten Karuizawa Samurai 30 years old bottlings. This beats the previous UK record price paid for an online whisky auction lot, though not the single bottle record held by Whisky Online Auction. The Karuizawa Samurai bottlings have been making their way to UK online stores in small groups over the past year or so, but this lot helps to define their true market value. The same auction witnessed the sale of three bottles of Karuizawa Samurai 30 years old bottlings for just £6,300, showing the value to vendors of building up complete collections before sale.