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Single bottle sells for £100,000

Online auction record for rare whiskies

Iain McClune

Iain McClune: interest exceeded expectations


Demand for rare whisky shows no sign of diminishing. The world’s largest known collection of rare and collectable Karuizawa whisky from Japan recently came up for auction in Perth and produced an online world record £770,000.

A 70cl bottle of Karuizawa’s 1960 52 year old, one of just 41 bottles originally released for £12,000 in 2013, sold for £100,100, setting a new UK and European record for a Japanese whisky.

The collection of 296 bottles, which had been built up over the last 10 years by a European collector, easily surpassed the pre-auction estimated value of around £500,000.

The auction attracted worldwide attention which translated into 5,093 bids for the bottles, and resulting in 89 successful buyers.

In terms of bottles purchased, the Unites States was by far and away the most popular destination, with 84 bottles purchased by US buyers. Germany produced the second highest number with 43, Hong Kong with 40, the UK with 37 and Greece 23.

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

The collection auctioned by Perth based Whisky Auctioneer covered 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.

The sale has been a huge success for Perthshire firm 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.

Iain McClune, founder and owner of Whisky Auctioneer said: “I don’t think we ever expected to have this much interest in our collection of Karuizawa, regardless of its rarity and collectability.

“Despite being a UK-based auction, only 37 of these bottles will remain on our shores. The international profile of the winning bids truly underline the global appeal of rare whisky at the moment, with these bottles soon heading off to 19 countries.”

Rare whisky expert Andy Simpson from Rare Whisky 101 said: “Given the vast demand for Karuizawa whisky in recent years, we wondered whether the market might have begun cool for this iconic distillery.

“However, judging by the global interest and the prices paid for this most recent auction, it would appear that Japanese whisky is still at the apex of many collectors’ wish-lists.

“What we don’t know, of course, if whether any of these bottles will resurface on the secondary market in years to come, or whether they will be opened, enjoyed and forever lost to the collector market.”

The buyer of the Karuizawa 1960 “The Archer”, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I was given the chance to try my first Karuizawa whisky sample a few years ago, and I immediately fell in love with it.

“When I saw Whisky Auctioneer’s collection of Karuizawa whiskies, including the oldest and rarest I knew straight away that I had bid for this once in a lifetime chance.

“I am absolutely thrilled to have secured this incredible whisky, in the knowledge that it was distilled only a few years after Karuizawa started production in 1955 and that it’s only one of 41 bottles ever produced.

“I’ve won an important  piece of history that will take pride of place at the heart of my collection.”

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