Auction Record for a Collection of Japanese Whisky: KODAWARI | Achieves £1.8 Million

17 NOVEMBER 2023 - Today at Sotheby's in London, an auction record for a collection of Japanese whisky was achieved when KODAWARI | The Greatest Japanese Whisky Collection brought an overall total of £1,784,937 / $2,216,892.

Predominantly made up of single cask releases from the famed Karuizawa Distillery, which ceased production in 2000, many of which rarely come to auction, the four-hour sale drew spirited bidding in the room and on the telephones as well as online. The results were headlined by a bottle of Karuizawa 52 Year Old Cask #5627 1960, which sold for £300,000 / $372,600. One of only 41 bottles and the oldest Karuizawa to have been released, each is uniquely identified not by a bottle number, but by an individual character or katabori netsuke that was carved from the oak cask head of cask #5627.

James Gray, Sotheby's Whisky Specialist said: “I am delighted that we have broken the record for the most valuable collection of Japanese whisky ever sold at auction. The KODAWARI Collection was built tirelessly over many years by an extremely passionate and dedicated collector and it's fantastic to have achieved such a fitting result for him and his bottles. With many of the rarest whiskies from Karuizawa, Hanyu and Yamazaki distilleries among others, it was a real honour to work on a collection of this calibre and bring yet another record-breaking collection to auction at Sotheby’s. The result far outweighs the previous record which is a testament to the quality and rarity of the KODAWARI collection and this is undoubtedly one of my career highlights so far.”

The collection included in excess of 150 bottles of Karuizawa dating back to 1960, alongside rare whiskies from The Yamazaki, Hakushu, Yoichi and Hanyu distilleries. Among the top lots were a trio of Karuizawa distilled in 1965 and bottled for the 60th Anniversary of Parisian whisky shop, La Maison du Whisky, and a bottle of the Karuizawa Aqua of Life 45 Year Old, released for the Taiwanese market.

This year, 2023, marks the centenary of Japanese whisky – a spirit that 100 years ago was forged in the footprint of Scotch whisky, but nowadays very much has a unique standing in the whisky collecting world. Today's sale was made possible by one collector’s foresight for the potential of Japanese whisky. Not only did the collector manage to obtain some of the rarest whiskies ever produced, he is also in the unique position of having tasted almost every single one of them, including the Karuizawa 1960. His passion overwhelmed any sense of trepidation when building the collection – when he began his foray into Japanese whisky, interest in the category outside of Asia was fairly non-existent, which is surprising given the exceptional quality of much of the malt whisky being produced in Japan. Although a ‘hidden gem’ in the West at the time, Japanese whisky was still fairly accessible. By the early 2010s, the whiskies had begun to appear regularly in Europe and the collector – a true enthusiast – started to swap and trade bottles with other like-minded individuals around the world to ensure his collection was as comprehensive as possible.

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