Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fierce Bidding for Japanese Whiskies

The Drinks Business: a leading drinks trade publication informs its readers of Bonhams' Hong Kong sale that took place on May 23, which saw competitive bidding on an interesting assortment of Japanese whiskies that included vintage Karuizawa and Ichiro's Malt "Card Series" bottlings. This is another indication of the continuing popularity of Japanese whisky, as well as the high prices people are continuing to pay for the beloved Nippon whisky. Dramtastic over at The Japanese Whisky Review in recent posts has addressed this topic, pointing out on a few occasions where certain Japanese whiskies have doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled in price. And then there is also an interesting opinion of Tim F from The Whisky Exchange - he writes that Karuizawa auction sales figures suggest that "very few people are actually investing, and that most people who buy a bottle intend to drink it or keep it in their collections to be drunk at a later date". As a lover of the island's spirit I hope this is the case and that bottles that have appeared recently at auction, in larger quantities compared to the past, are for pure consumption without the intent to further make a quick buck or two down the track. Either way, it is a positive sign that suggests Japanese whisky is at the forefront of many peoples tastes.

Image borrowed from The Drinks Business


  1. Hi Clint,
    I disagree on Karuizawa. It has by far and away the most auction listings of any Japanese whisky, suggesting that most are just changing hands from one investor to another. Also, I have followed the 2 highest subscribed English speaking whisky forums for the last 4 years and I have rarely read anyone drinking Karuizawa in the, 'what are you drinking now threads'. This thread always has the most comments, both daily and overall.
    Consider this, I have often read about people opening and drinking something of the likes of Port Ellen or other highly rated, high priced whiskies from closed distilleries on the same thread.
    This is not a passing interest, I check these threads daily. On the rare occasion I read about someone drinking Karuizawa it's usually something like the cheaper Spirit of Osama.
    From what I have read, it is human nature to write that you are quaffing down something rare and expensive. So amongst other evidence(including the huge prices of single cask releases), I believe that the bulk of Karuizawa are bought by investors.

  2. Hi Brian - I presume the disagreement is with the suggestion that Karuizawa's are being purchased at auction with the intent to be consumed and not by investors looking for profit, which was stated by the source? As I mentioned I hope this is the case, but you and I know it is not on most occasions - my hope partially lays with this particular post/auction. I had the hope that the popularity of whisky, including Japanese whisky, in recent times, across Asia may mean that at this auction that provided all these whiskies, which lets face it are hard to come across anywhere were purchased by cashed up punters with luxury taste buds. But I guess by saying "hard to come across anywhere" basically puts in forth the suggestive motion that they are in fact snapped up for future investment. I agree with the fact that many a good Karuizawa are not in "daily drams" of people's threads. It is a very interesting comparison to compare another high priced whisky from a closed distillery. Perhaps a prime indication of buyers intentions.

  3. Difficult to say whether people buy Karuizawa for investment or for drinking pleasure.

    In France at least, and following some french-speaking blogs and forums, i do have the impression that we, Frenchmen, do actually do drink those Karuizawa bottles. Luckily we do have once or twice a year new single cask bottlings thru LMDW, thus availability is also less of a problem than in other countries - although this tends to be less and less true, since LMDW and other local whisky retailers usually sell out those bottles very quickly (sometimes a matter of days), and not only to local buyers, but to many (mostly Asian) tourists (at least that's what i'm being told at LMDW, e.g. taiwanese tourists buying the 4 cocktail series at once and such).

    There is also a side-effect of the quick rise in Karui prices: i, for example, do buy more bottles of Karui than i drink during the year. I happen to buy probably 3 times more bottles than i do open within the next year, because i know i won't be able to buy and drink some of these bottles EVER if i don't buy them right when they come out, and because i believe the flow of Karui bottles will stop in the coming years - thus contributing to the scarcity of the bottles, and their price rise...

    1. It is difficult to say, but I think there is suggestive evidence that both people buy for drinking pleasure and for investment purposes, all you need to do is take a look at a few online auctions. The astronomical prices some expressions go for could suggest the Zawa's are not for drinking purposes. Of course that could be totally wrong and it just suggests that very cashed up Zawa fans have endless money to buy their favourite drams. Regarding the article/auction above, I believe that Zawa's sold at auction in say HK would most likely be for drinking purposes - but hard to say. I agree with the fact that Zawa prices rise quickly, therefore for the pure drinker, it pays to obtain where possible a few so you can enjoy it down the track when prices may become beyond affordable.