The Oldest Japanese Whisky, Yamazaki 55-Year-Old, to Go on Sale for HK$580,000

Over the years, the Yamazaki 50-Year-Old whisky has set the auction record for the most expensive Japanese whisky on numerous occasions. How will the oldest Japanese whisky- Yamazaki 55-Year-Old perform on the auction stage? This single-malt whisky, five years longer-matured than the Yamazaki 50-Year-Old, was released only in June this year and is produced in a limited edition of 100 bottles. One of them will be on offer at Bonhams Hong Kong next month with an estimate of HK$580,000 - 780,000 (US$74,833 - 100,638). 

A bottle of 50-Year-Old Yamazaki first edition can easily fetch millions of Hong Kong dollars. Time has finally come for the debut of the first edition Yamazaki 55-Year-Old, a long-anticipated moment for many. Its first appearance at auction is going to determine the performance of the other bottles in the whisky market. 

55-Year-Old Yamazaki|Estimate: HK$580,000 - 780,000

First edition 50-Year-Old Yamazaki|Sold in 2019 for NT$13.51m (about US$429,798)

Compared to Scottish whisky, Japanese whisky has a rather short history. It started when Japan's first commercial whisky - Yamazaki distillery, was built. The distillery was founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii and was located in Yamazaki, an area on the southwestern side of Kyoto. The Katsura River, Uji River and Kizugara River flowing nearby provided an optimum condition for whisky maturing. 

The first edition 50-Year-Old Yamazaki whisky was casked in 1955 to mature, then bottled and released in 2005. The new 55-Year-Old Yamazaki, distilled to 46% ABV (alcohol by volume), is five years longer-matured than the coveted Yamazaki-50 Year Old. Along with the Yamazaki-55 Year Old, a bottle of Saburomaru-1960-55 year old which was released by Wakatsuru Distillery in 2016 will also appear at the same sale with an estimate of HK$70,000 - 90,000. 

Yamazaki distillery was founded in 1923 by Shinjiro Torii 

Saburomaru-1960-55 year old|Estimate: HK$70,000 - 90,000 

Packaging of the whisky is also important

Apart from what’s inside a bottle of whisky, the packaging is also important. The 55-Year-Old Yamazaki bottle’s mouth is wrapped in handmade Echizen Washi and tied with a traditional Kyoto braided cord. It is housed in a black Mizunara oak box with Suruga lacquer. The buyer’s name is also marked at the base of the bottle and the number ‘55’ is gold-dusted onto it.  

It is too soon to comment on the taste of the whisky as it was released merely a month ago. According to the distillery, the whisky has a deep reddish amber colour with a complex agarwood and sandalwood nose, rich in fruity scents with a sweet aftertaste. 

‘55’ is gold-dusted onto the bottle

The bottle’s mouth is wrapped in handmade Echizen Washi and tied with a traditional Kyoto braided cord

Acquiring the 55-Year-Old Yamazaki from Suntory is not an easy task as its first edition comes in a limited edition of 100 bottles. Suntory at the beginning of the year announced that each bottle is priced at a whopping JPY3.3m (US$31,342) including tax. You would also have to be a Japanese resident and participate in a lottery held in February to be an owner of one of the bottles. 

When the news was released, whisky lovers from all over the world went out of their way to get their hands on the 55-Year-Old whisky. The unlucky ones who did not manage to do so can only try to find one from the second-hand market. 

Therefore, the 55-Year-Old Yamazaki will be the highlight of the show, catching the attention of all whisky fanatics. It is possible that Suntory will release a second and third edition of the whisky as they have done so before with the 50-Year-Old Yamazaki. 

Yamazaki 55-Year-Old

Limited edition: 100 bottles

Estimate: HK$580,000 - 780,000

Auction details

Auction house: Bonhams Hong Kong

Sale: Fine & Rare Wine and Whisky

Sale date: 21 August 2020