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Rare Japanese whisky fetches $603,000 at auction

Japanese whisky auction
via CNN

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    A bottle of Yamazaki 55, a rare Japanese single malt whisky, yielded hundreds of thousands of dollars at a U.S. auction earlier this year, shocking Japanese whisky distillers. 

    Japanese packaged goods company Suntory initially released just 100 bottles of its Yamazaki whiskey – spelled “whisky” in Japan – in June 2020.

    The 55-year-old whisky was sold via a form of lottery for 3 million yen (approximately $22,400) and became extremely rare to both connoisseurs and investment buyers. Later that year, a bottle of Yamazaki 55 was reportedly acquired for around $795,000 at an auction.

    During a U.S. auction in June, a lucky bidder managed to acquire a coveted bottle for 81 million yen (approximately $603,000).

    In the past decade, Japanese whisky has begun making headlines for its global reputation.

    Although the Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association reported a drop in domestic whisky shipment in 2007, Suntory’s highball drinks – a mixture of whisky and carbonated drinks – along with “Massan,” a TV series depicting the life of Nikka Whisky’s founder, changed that course in 2010. That year, domestic whisky shipping increased to 81.27 million liters (approximately 21.5 million gallons). By 2019, domestic demand had increased to 159.43 million liters (approximately 42.1 million gallons). 

    This popularity was also seen globally. As a result of it being commonly awarded during international competitions – with brands like Nikka Whisky winning gold at the International Spirits Challenge – Japanese whisky now ranks as one of the top five whiskies worldwide, Japan Forward reported.

    In 2021, Japan’s National Tax Agency stated that the East Asian nation’s liquor exports reached a record high for the 10th consecutive year, exceeding 100 billion yen (approximately $744 million).

    However, the high demand for exceptional whisky has led to a shortage, forcing some Japanese brands – including Yamazaki and Taketsuru – to discontinue select products. 

    According to Japan Forward, Suntory has invested 51 billion yen (approximately $380 million) to increase its storage capacity, while Nikka Whisky has worked on increasing its production capacity.

    Regardless of this increase, Japanese whisky continues to be auctioned at bewildering prices, proving its popularity.

    As Tomoo Arai, the managing director of the Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association revealed, “This is another indicator of the market value of Japanese whisky.”

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