Article - Whisky - 11. February 2022

Yamazaki 55 Years - The World's Most Expensive Japanese Whisky For Sale At RareWine

A 55-year-old Yamazaki single malt Japanese whisky with a retail price of € 570,000 ex. VAT is a small piece of history that has now landed in custody at RareWine.

Admittedly, it takes a special bottle for us at RareWine to get sweaty hands when we handle the world's most expensive wines every day. One such bottle is the Yamazaki 55 years with a retail price of € 570,000 ex. VAT.  

It does not really look like much as it stands there on the goods receiving table, the little bottle with the orange sheen containing 700ml of Japanese whisky history. However, do not be fooled by its modest and stylish exterior. There is an aura of awe surrounding the golden drops in the teeny bottle. Here we are dealing with one of the most unique things imaginable.

The 700ml. bottle of Yamazaki 55 Years has arrived at Nordic Freeport, RareWines warehouse in Denmark

"Touched By The Hands Of Shinjiro Torii"

This is not just another bottle in the crowd. This is one of only 100 bottles of the world's oldest release to date from the iconic Suntory distillery in Yamazaki - the birthplace of Japanese whisky production.

This particular whisky is "touched by the hands of Shinjiro Torii" as the producer Suntory describes on their website. Shinjiro Torii is the founding father of whisky production in the land of the rising sun and, of course, the 1st generation Master Blender of Yamazaki, the first Japanese whiskey distillery ever - and arguably the most exclusive. 

The small, modest bottle containing 55 years of Yamazaki Japanese single malt whisky is not only the oldest Yamazaki whisky ever released. It is also the most expensive Japanese whiskey ever. It holds the record for the most expensive single bottle we at RareWine Group have ever had for sale. Yamazaki 55 Year Old carries a price tag of € 570,000 excluding VAT.  

Yamazaki 55 Years old comes in a custom box made out of Mizunara wood

Yamazaki Breaks Record After Record

The records are almost in line for Japanese Suntory when talking about their famous Yamazaki whisky. First of all, they are rarely found in the open market, even at the most extensive and most exclusive auction houses. When they finally are, they break record after record.

In 2005 a 50-year-old Yamazaki was released for the first time. Back then, only 50 bottles were released. Another 50-year-old Yamazaki saw the light of day in 2007 with another 50 bottles. Finally, 150 bottles were released in 2011. All three releases were initially launched at a price of "only" €10,000.

Since then, the three releases have broken one record after another at auction houses worldwide. There almost does not seem to be a ceiling on what the best whiskies can cost. The previous record was set in 2019 when the 2005 release of Yamazaki 50 Years was sold for €375,000 at the Ravenel auction house in Taipei. The price would surely be much higher today.

The record back then only held until the release of the Yamazaki 55 Years, which came to market in 2020 and was traded at Bonhams auction house in Hong Kong in August of that year. The price was €695,000, setting the record as the most expensive Japanese whisky ever.

The Yamazaki 55 Years and the case made of Japanese Mizunara wood in the background on the table.

Who Buys A Bottle Of Whisky For € 570.000?

Miran Buric, head of spirits at RareWine Group, is the man who brought the bottle to the warehouse in Denmark. He dares not guess how many years it will be before we see a similar release.

"It's pure speculation. There is great and almost mythical secrecy surrounding the releases of the sparse quantities of the best Yamazaki whiskies. The only thing we know for sure is that usually, many years go by. So it may be another 5 or 10 years before we see a similar release of 55-year-old Yamazaki again - and as is usually the case, the first release is the most sought after," adds Miran Buric. He states that it may not have broken its last record.

This is far from the first time that Miran Buric and RareWine Group have made international headlines when it comes to trading the world's most expensive bottles. In 2021, Miran Buric was also the first to collect all six bottles of the mythical Red Collection on European soil. In fact, in 2021, he collected the Red Collection, produced by the cult Scottish distillery Macallan, twice. The price at the time was €530,000 for the Red Collection, which today is valued much higher.

Also in 2018, RareWine Group was mentioned in international headlines for having assembled the iconic Macallan Lalique 6 Pillars collection which at the time could be acquired for "just" €440,000 and today represents a much higher market value.

If you wonder who could potentially be the end customer for these extraordinary bottles, then according to Miran Buric we should look towards international collectors and investors: "if you already have the three releases of Yamazaki 50 years in your collection, then it almost does not matter what Yamazaki 55 years may cost, because the value of the whole collection is almost priceless - and this one is undoubtedly the crown jewel of the collection" concludes Miran Buric.  

The capsule of the bottle is a story of its own featuring traditional Japanese washi paper and a Kyo-kumihimo plaited cord from Kyoto.

Whisky Delivers 478 % Return - Is Whisky A Good Investment?

At RareWine Invest, we are seeing a growing interest in whisky investments, with the best Scotch and Japanese whiskies attracting the most attention. And with good reason. According to Frank Knight's The Wealth Report 2021, whisky as an alternative has risen in price by 478 % over the last 10 years. In comparison, the report concludes that designer watches have increased by 89% over the same period.

"It's crystal clear that with an average annual return of more than 19 % over 10 years, whisky has become one of our more sought-after investment categories. What you need to be aware of, however, is that whisky typically carries significantly more risk than wine. Finally, the best bottles of whisky will also make up a considerable part of a portfolio, so it is far from everyone for whom we recommend whisky investment," mentions Rune Spliid, commercial director at RareWine Invest.

At RareWine Invest, whisky belongs to the 'Rest-of-the-world' category, which in 2021 delivered a return of just over 12%.

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