US$800,000 Yamazaki 55-Year-Old Becomes The Most Expensive Bottle of Japanese Whisky

A new auction record for Japanese whisky has been set by a bottle of first edition Yamazaki 55-Year-Old, the oldest Japanese whisky. The bottle sold for HK$6.2m (almost US$800,000) and pushed the record to a new high, putting an end to the competition between the Yamasaki 50-Year-Old and the Karuizawa 52-Year-Old as the most expensive Japanese whisky. 

First edition Yamazaki 55-Year-Old|Aug 2020, Bonhams Hong Kong|Price realised: HK$6,200,000

The single-malt blockbuster was only released in June this year. It was matured in both Japanese Mizunara oak cask from 1960 and white oak cask from 1964, distilled to 46% ABV (alcohol by volume). 

1964 was the year of the previous Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It is believed that Suntory has chosen to release the Yamazaki 55-Year-Old this year in celebration of the Tokyo Olympics which was scheduled to happen this year but postponed due to the pandemic.

The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old 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 (around US$31,000) including tax. On top of that, only Japanese residents could acquire the whisky by participating in a lottery system. Many have been keeping an eye on the second-hand market in hopes of getting their hands on a bottle of the oldest Japanese whisky. 

The first edition Yamazaki 55-Year-Old comes in a limited edition of 100 bottles, priced at JPY3.3

The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old’s first appearance on the auction stage has undoubtedly attracted the attention of Japanese whisky lovers all over the world. The bottle did not disappoint as it sold for 10 times its estimate of HK$580,000 - 780,000 (around US$75,000 - 100,000) and became the most expensive Japanese whisky sold at auction. 

There are two sayings as to which whisky holds the previous record due to differences in currency exchange rates. Some say that the 50-Year-Old Yamazaki first edition which realised NT$13.51 (US$459,672) at Ravenel Auction in Taipei was the most valuable whisky, while others think that the Karuizawa 52-Year-Old Cask which achieved £363,000 at Sotheby’s London in March this year held the title. 

50-year-old Yamazaki first edition|Ravenel Auction Taipei, 2019|Price realised: NT$13.51m

In fact, it is hard to say which bottle was more expensive. According to the auction houses’ own data, Ravenel Auction’s Yamazaki 50-Year-Old sold for US$427,610 while Sotheby’s Karuizawa 52-Year-Old sold for US$435,273. 

The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old has put the debate to rest as it achieved a staggering US$795,000 at Bonhams. It is currently the most expensive Japanese whisky without argument as the price is US$360,000 higher than the previous record. 

1960 Karuizawa 52-Year-Old|March 2020, Sotheby’s London|Price realised; £363,000

Daniel Lam, Director of Wine and Whisky, Bonhams Asia, commented, ‘The stunning price sets a new milestone for the market of Japanese whisky, testament to collectors’ desire and determination to acquire the very best the market has to offer. We are pleased to see a keen demand for Scotch whisky in today’s sale as well.’

The industry is hoping that Suntory will release a second and third edition of the whisky as they have done so before with the 50-Year-Old Yamazaki. 

Most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky sold at auction

Yamazaki 55-Year-Old

Limited edition: 100 bottles
Estimate: HK$580,000 - 780,000
Price realised: HK$6,200,000

Auction details

Auction house: Bonhams Hong Kong
Sale: Fine and Rare Wine and Whisky
Sale date: 21 August 2020