The World's Most Coveted Bottles of Japanese Whisky

The World's Most Coveted Bottles of Japanese Whisky

Be it five decades old, blended to perfection, or left to age in a single cask in Japan’s warm, humid summer, it’s time to drool over some of the most coveted bottles of Japanese Whisky in the world. These have been chosen based on rarity, exclusivity, and awards received on the global stage.

Japanese Whisky has, is, and will, most likely, continue to boom in the coming years. Here are some of the bottles responsible for pushing the growth and excitement surrounding the category in recent years.

1. Yamazaki Mizunara 2017

Part of the world-renowned Yamazaki Mizunara series which started in 2010, the latest edition launched in late 2017 to huge international acclaim.

1,500 bottles of were first distributed in Japan via a lottery held by Suntory, then in the West, before the bottles reached the secondary market and skyrocketed in price.

Few expressions showcase the essence of Japanese mizunara oak, like this one does. Coconut cake, tropical fruit, and a rich depth of oak and spice.

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2. Hibiki 30

Blended Whisky is inferior to Single Malts, you say? Enter the Hibiki. The series launched in 1989 and has since grown to be one of the most premium and awarded blended ranges in the world.

Of the series the Hibiki 21 and 30 are the most globally renowned, with the Hibiki 30 Year-Old offering immeasurable depth, often seen as a collectible.

Comprising of vintages no younger than 30 years old, expect a deep, balanced sweetness, led by oak, oranges, sponge cake, and sweet spices. The 30 shone most at the International Spirits Challenge, winning the “Trophy” award in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

3. Yoichi 20 Year-Old

From the great Yoichi, Nikka’s most renowned distillery, comes the now discontinued Yoichi 20 Year-Old.

The bottle is a masterpiece fully showcasing what Masataka Taketsuru, known as the father of Japanese Whisky, set out to achieve when he founded the distillery. A Whisky from Japan, influenced by Scotland’s traditions.

This peated, smoky dram, is reminiscent of Islay, but features unique notes of juicy fruit and dark chocolate. Big, intense, and powerful. Sadly, the Yoichi Aged Range was discontinued a few years back, but word has it they may return for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, when Yoichi stock is replenished.

4. Chichibu Matsuri 2017

While the Chichibu distillery is still young, founded in 2004, it is one of the most popular and loved small producers in Japan. Even their youngest expressions offer surprising depth and flavour.

Their bottling for the annual Chichibu festival last year was named the World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt at the 2017 World Whiskies Awards.

The win was huge for the distillery, as they won over some of the biggest Whisky makers in the world.

As expected the bottle is now hard to find and rather pricy if you do come by it. If you ever get the chance, be sure to taste it. Look for notes of decadent molasses, sherry, and spicy citrus.

5. Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013

The Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 changed the global image of Japanese Whisky as a whole, when it was named the World’s Best Whisky in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015. Winning over all other expressions that year, turned even more eyes towards the booming category of Japanese Whisky.

As expected, the bottling quickly rose in price, and is now one of the most coveted expressions out there. Plums, figs, dark chocolate, and abundant spice all bring about phenomenal balance and depth.

6. Coloured & Monochrome Joker - Hanyu Playing Cards

Sold at auction in 2015 for $485,472, the 54 bottle series by Hanyu is one of the most coveted collections out there.
Of the set, the two versions of the joker are, arguably, the rarest of the bunch, sought-after in auctions across Asia and Europe. The monochrome version, in particular, was the final release in the series.

The series came about when Ichiro Akuto, owner of the aforementioned Chichibu distillery, bottled the remaining Whisky from his family’s shut-down distillery, Hanyu. The labels, bottles, art, and lost Whisky, all make the Playing Card series a goal for ardent collectors the world over.

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7. Karuizawa 1963 Single Cask 50 Year Old

Just above Hanyu, lost Karuizawa Whisky is some of the rarest across the globe. The distillery shut down in 2000, and its expressions have since risen in rarity and value. This 50 Year-Old cask bottling sold at auction last year for a huge $30,000.

After all, it’s Whisky never to be made again. The distillery site can’t even be visited, as it was completely dismantled and shut down in 2012.

8. Karuizawa 1960 The Archer

During the same auction, the Karuizawa 52 Year-Old Archer bottling sold for $140,140, making it the most expensive bottle in the mammoth Karuizawa auction, and the most expensive single bottle of Japanese Whisky ever sold at auction.

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9. Yamazaki 50 Year-Old (2005 & 2011 Edition)

The Yamazaki 50 Year-Old has, twice, broken the world-record of the most expensive standard sized Japanese Whisky bottle sold at auction.

First in 2016, the 2005 edition sold for a staggering $129,000. Then, just recently, on January 27th 2018, the 2011 edition sold for almost $300,000, a number that blew all other sales out of the water. Distilled soon after the end of WWII, this is a piece of Japanese history and a legend in the global Whisky world.
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