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Demand for rare Japanese whisky rises in Asia

Auction house Zachys has hailed “enormous interest” in Japanese whisky as a number of rare bottlings smash their presale estimates in Hong Kong.

A Suit of Diamonds botting in the Hanyu Ichiro’s Malt Playing Cards series has sold for US$41,097 in Hong Kong

Zachys held its New Year Auction on 24 January at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong, where all of its Japanese whisky lots were sold, achieving a US$337,072 against a pre-sale estimate of US$210,516.

In particular, auctioneers claimed rare bottles of Hanyu Ichiro’s Malt Playing Cards series were “eagerly sought after”.

The top lot in the 13-strong series was the Suit of Diamonds, which was sold for US$41,097 against a pre-sale estimate of between US$34,000 and US$55,000.

Meanwhile, two bottles of “extremely rare” Black & White Joker and the Colour Joker – the two final cards in the series released in 2014 – smashed their pre-sale estimates of between US$8000 and US$12,000 to fetch US$15,016.

“All of the 98 lots of Japanese whiskies on offer were sold at impressive prices, clearly reflecting the enormous interest and strong demand in the market for this category, especially in Asia,” said Jeff Zacharia, president of Zachys

“The interest for whisky in the auction market has started to build up in the past few years and I believe that its popularity will continue to grow in the global marketplace.”

Elliot Faber, Hong Kong based whisky specialist, said that the sales showed increasing demand for limited edition bottlings not only from closed distilleries such as Hanyu and Karuizawa, but also from distilleries which are still in operation, such as Suntory’s Yamazaki, Nikka’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo.

“This year, collectors and enthusiasts alike will be thirsty for more single casks and older vintage bottlings from all of Japan’s distilleries,” he added.

Also at the auction, two bottles of The Macallan-Glenlivet Scotch whiskies aged 37 and 33-years-old sold for US$4741 and US$2845 respectively, both exceeding their pre-sale estimates.

In August last year, one of the world’s rarest bottles of Japanese whisky, a 50-year-old Yamazaki single malt, sold at auction in Hong Kong for more than HK$250,000.

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