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Japanese spirit under the hammer

Perthshire auctioneer to sell rare whisky collection

Iain McClune

The world’s largest known collection of rare and collectable Karuizawa whisky from Japan will go under the hammer in an online auction held by Perthshire-based Whisky Auctioneer.

The collection of 290 bottles, which had been built up over the last 10 years by a European collector, has an estimated value of more than £500,000.

Iain McClune (pictured), founder and owner of Whisky Auctioneer, collected the bottles and transported them back to Scotland.

Karuizawa whisky has become one of the world’s most coveted whiskies since the distillery stopped production in 2000.

The collection being auctioned covers almost every expression created by the renowned Japanese distillery. It is the first time such an extensive collection has been made available for auction anywhere in the world.

Amongst the lots on offer will be a bottle of Karuizawa 1960 which last sold at auction in Hong Kong for £96,000 in 2015 setting a new record for a Japanese whisky.

More than 230 of the bottles are single casks and include some exceptionally rare bottlings such as the 1963 50 Year Old and the 1964 48 Year Old bottled for Wealth Solutions, Poland. 

Excluding the highly rare bottle of 1960, the average price paid for each bottle within the collection is expected to top £2,000, although some of these bottles are likely to sell for considerably more.

Whisky Auctioneer will open bidding for the 290 lots on 5 April.

The sale is a coup for Whisky Auctioneer which specialises in auctioning fine, old, rare and collectable whisky.

In recent years, collectors have flocked towards Japanese distilleries, whose reputations and values have rocketed in the booming secondary market. According to rare whisky experts and analysts Rare Whisky 101, the RWK (Rare Whisky Karuizawa) Index, which tracks the performance of a select collection of bottles from this silent Japanese distillery, shows an increase in value of more than 300% since July 2013.

Karuizawa is not the only Japanese distillery to benefit from such a rise in stock. Last year, the most expensive bottle of whisky to sell at an auction in the UK was a bottle of Yamazaki 50-year-old which sold for £62,600.

Mr McClune said: “A collection of this size from one of the world’s most collectable distilleries has never previously been seen at auction, so we’re absolutely thrilled to have fought off some stiff competition to lead the sale.  

“While we’ve seen a lot of our business come from within the UK and Europe, this particular collection is likely to have global appeal. We expect to see some significant interest from rare whisky collector hotspots such as the US, Taiwan and of course, Karuizawa’s homeland of Japan.”

Rare whisky expert Andy Simpson from Rare Whisky 101 said: “Over the past few years, we’ve seen the availability of Japanese whisky at auction continue to increase led by the highly sought-after Karuizawa.

“These low volume but high value bottles impact the market significantly with many bottles fetching in excess of £2,000, most frequently coming to market as individual bottles or small collections.

“However, in this case, with such a large collection up for grabs at the same time, it’s going to be fascinating to see exactly how much demand is out there for one of the world’s most coveted rare whiskies.”

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