Bidders had their eyes set on a bottle of Yamazaki 55 Year Old. Bonhams Hong Kong's Fine & Rare auction listed the bottle of Yamazaki with an expected sale price of $75,000 to $106,000. Instead, the oldest Japanese whisky of all time reached another superlative: the most expensive Japanese whisky with a selling price of roughly $795,000.
The Yamazaki 55, distilled in 1960, spent four years in a mizunara cask before being transferred to a white oak cask in 1964, the year of the last Tokyo Olympics. Limited to 100 bottles, Yamazaki 55 was originally announced in January 2020. Its release was meant to commemorate the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed due to the coronavirus. Bonham says the whisky is fruit-rich and presented in special packaging:
"Distilled to 46% ABV, it has a deep reddish amber [color] with a complex agarwood and sandalwood nose, rich in fruity scents with a sweet aftertaste. The gold-dusted bottle is housed in a black Mizunara oak box with Suruga lacquer. The bottle mouth is wrapped in handmade Echizen Washi and tied with a traditional Kyoto braided cord."
Taking place amid a pandemic, the Bonhams auction looked different than those in the past. The auction adhered to Hong Kong's COVID-19 guidelines, so there were few people in attendance, with most bids coming from online or by telephone.
The 55-year-old whiskey was originally available for purchase through a lottery system for Japanese residents, with winners getting their names etched into the bottle. As Forbes reported, a lottery had been put into place as of late because of previous mayhem at in-person whiskey festivals.
Japanese whisky's popularity has grown exponentially in the last few years, and this record-setting auction shows that popularity is not slowing down any time soon. Much like watch auctions, don't expect this record breaker to hold its title for very long.