Sotheby’s auction buzzed with excitement as ‘The Greatest Japanese Whisky Collection’ raked in a cool $3 million. On November 17th, the esteemed auction house broke the record for the most valuable collection of Japanese whisky ever sold at auction, featuring single cask releases from the Karuizawa Distillery. The distillery, having ceased production in 2000, made the bottles even more sought-after by connoisseurs. One bottle of Karuizawa 52-Year-Old Cask #5627 1960 made headlines by fetching a price of $500,000, per Thedrinksbusiness. What sets it apart is that it is the oldest among only 41 Karuizawa bottles ever released.
The collection included over 150 bottles of Karuizawa dating back to 1960, along with rare whiskies from The Yamazaki, Hakushu, Yoichi, and Hanyu distilleries. James Gray, Sotheby’s whisky specialist, remarked, “With many of the rarest whiskies from Karuizawa, Hanyu, and Yamazaki distilleries among others, it was a real honor to work on a collection of this caliber and bring yet another record-breaking collection to auction at Sotheby’s. The result far exceeded the previous record, a testament to the quality and rarity of the Kodawari collection.”
Sotheby’s created history with this sale, coinciding with the centenary of Japanese whisky. The $3 million sale also celebrates the collector’s foresight in recognizing the potential of Japanese whisky. This single collector amassed over 150 bottles from the famed Karuizawa Distillery, which ceased production in 2000. Interestingly, the anonymous seller auctioned only about 20% of his collection at Sotheby’s. He began collecting in the early 2000s, when the fine Japanese whiskies were largely unknown outside Asia.
Initially purchasing Karuizawa’s for a mere $250, he now boasts a collection of some of the finest and rarest whiskies on the planet. The collector stated, “Nowadays, these rare bottles are extremely hard to find, but when I started collecting, not many people knew about Japanese Whisky. The 1960 is the most memorable whisky that I’ve tried, particularly for its rarity and significance.”
He added, “At my age, I probably won’t be able to consume all of them within my lifetime. Sometimes, these rare bottles are meant to be shared with other collectors and enthusiasts. I want them to be enjoyed, rather than kept in a dark cellar.”