Japanese Whisky Dominated Bonhams HK$26m Whisky Sale

Bonhams Hong Kong’s Whisky Sale achieved 90% sold by lot and a sale total of over HK$26m (US$3.31m). Top Japanese whisky brands Yamazaki, Karuizawa and Suntory stole the show and became the top four lots of the sale.

The star lot of the sale is the first edition Yamazaki-50 year old. The whisky was matured in casks made from mizunara (Japanese Oak) before being bottled and released in 2005. Only 50 bottles were produced, making it one of the scarcest Japanese whiskies. The bidding opened at HK$1.5m and the hammer was put down at HK$2.2m. The bottle was sold for HK$2.695m with premium. The new price smashed the old record for the most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky set by the Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky Aged 50 Years NV, which was sold for HK$2.33m at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in January.

Mizunara oak is used for long periods of maturation. After around 20 years, distinct flavours will emerge from the alcohol. The flavours from mizunara are sandalwood, coconut, and a type of oriental incense named kara, adding a unique set of flavours to the whisky.

Ranking in number two is another bottle by Yamazaki. The Yamazaki 35-year-old single malt was blended from spirits distilled in traditional straight-head stills between 1966 and 1970, matured in special 90-liter second-fill Spanish oak sherry butt casks and bottled in 2006. The whisky’s estimate was HK$350,000 - 500,000 and it was hammered down for HK$450,000, sold for HK$551,000 with premium.

Also achieving an exceptional price was a 1965 Karuizawa single malt whisky bottled in 2017. With only 150 bottles produced, the whisky’s estimate was set at HK$330,000 - 380,000 and it went under the hammer for a final price of HK$400,000 (HK$490,000 with premium).

A Suntory-Rolling Stone 50th Anniversary whisky made number four in the sale. Only 150 bottles were produced. Estimated at HK$280,000 - 360,000, the bottle was sold for HK$380,000 (HK$465,000 with premium).

It is a blend of carefully selected malts distilled and casked in milestone years throughout the band's 50 year history. Selected malts includes: Yamazaki 1962 (The Rolling Stones formed), Yamazaki 1971 (Lips and tongue logo completed), Yamazaki 1972 (Exile on Main St., the album including "Rocks Off," used in Suntory TV commercials is released), Yamazaki 1981 (Signature song "Start Me Up" released), Hakushu 1990 & Chita Grain (First performance in Japan's Tokyo Dome).

Top Four Lots 

Yamazaki-50 year old. 1st Edition

Lot no.: 203
Bottled in: 2005
Distilled and bottled at Yamazaki Distillery
One of 50 bottles. In wooden presentation case. Engraved labelling. 700ml. Single Malt., 54% volume.
Estimate: HK$1,800,000 - 2,400,000 (US$229,338 - 305,784)
Hammer price: HK$2,200,000 (US$280,000)
Price realised: HK$2,695,000 (US$343,000)

Yamazaki-35 year old

Lot no.: 384
Bottled in: 2006
Distilled and Bottled by Yamazaki Distillery.
In wooden presentation case. Good label. Level: into neck.
Estimate: HK$350,000 - 500,000 (US$44,587 - 63,696)
Hammer price: HK$450,000 (US$57,326)
Price realised: HK$551,250 (US$70,225)


Lot no.: 473
Bottled in: 2017
Distilled at Karuizawa Distillery
One of 150 bottles. Cask no. 8852, Sherry Butt. In wooden presentation case. Engraved labelling. 700ml. Single Malt., 63.1% volume.
Estimate: HK$330,000 - 380,000 (US$42,039 - 48,409)
Hammer price: HK$400,000 (US$50,957)
Price realised: HK$551,250 (US$62,422)

Suntory-Rolling Stone 50th Anniversary

Lot no.: 129
One of 150 bottles
Some Rolling Stones milestones and corresponding malts used

  • Yamazaki 1962: The Rolling Stones formed
  • Yamazaki 1971: Lips and tongue logo completed
  • Yamazaki 1972: Exile on Main St., the album including "Rocks Off," used in Suntory TV commercials is released
  • Yamazaki 1981: Signature song "Start Me Up" released
  • Hakushu 1990 & Chita Grain: First performance in Japan's Tokyo Dome

Estimate: HK$280,000 - 360,000 (US$35,669 - 45,861)
Hammer price: HK$380,000 (US$48,409)
Price realised: HK$465,500 (US$59,237)

Auction summary

Auction house: Bonhams Hong Kong
Sale: Whisky
Sale date: 17th August 2018
Lots offered: 523
Sold: 472
Unsold: 51
Sold by lots: 90%