The 50-year-old Yamazaki is another in a recent streak of high-priced spirits.

By Food & Wine
August 20, 2018
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Getty Images

Just how hot is the world of whiskey auctions right now? Literally five days ago we covered “Why Scotch Whisky Auctions Are Breaking Records,” at the time mentioning how a growing scarcity in Japanese whisky was helping to drive up prices overall. On Friday, a Japanese bottle further proved that Scotch isn’t the only whisky market that’s soaring: A rare bottle of 50-year-old Yamazaki became the most expensive Japanese bottle ever sold at auction, hauling in a price of approximately $343,000.

Yamazaki—which is Japan’s oldest whisky distillery, established in 1923—has reportedly only released its 50-year-old expression on three occasions, in 2005, 2007, and 2011, and this record-breaking bottle is one of just 50 from that first edition release, making it especially coveted. (The other releases consisted of 50 and 150 bottles respectively.) According to Bonhams in Hong Kong, where the auction occurred, the record-breaking bid was placed by an Asian phone bidder who asked to remain otherwise anonymous.

“The Yamazaki 50-year-old is a very rare and special whisky, and I am expecting a lot of interest from collectors,” Daniel Lam, Bonhams' head of fine wine and whisky in Hong Kong, said in a statement before the auction when the bottle still had a more modest presale estimate of somewhere between about $229,000 and $306,000.

For the record, though the Yamazaki sale certainly was impressive, it still pales in comparison to the highest price paid for a bottle of whisky produced anywhere in the world which was claimed by a bottle of The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 60-Year-Old Scotch that sold for just over $1.1 million in May.

Still, this latest sale is the third record set by Japanese whisky this year. The previous record for a single bottle of Japanese whisky was established in May when a Karuizawa 160 52-year-old “The Dragon” sold for $312,130. Before that, the record holder was a different bottle of Yamazaki 50-year-old from the 2011 release that sold for about $299,000.

But potentially even more amazing is just how quickly the price of this new record-setting bottle has increased. When the limited-run Yamazaki 50-year-old first hit the market in 2005, the retail price was just $9,000, according to Nikkei Asian Review. That’s an over 3,800-percent return on investment in just 13 years… aka significantly better than the stock market. (The Dow Jones has had about a 140 percent gain over that time.) But at the same time, bottles of The Macallan Genesis (just the regular bottles, not the Lalique bottles) which were released only last week are already being auctioned for at least four times their original price, according to The Drinks Business. As we said at the outset, the whisky market is hot.

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