World's largest collection of rare Japanese whiskies breaks auction record

The world’s largest known collection of rare Karuizawa whisky from Japan has been snapped up for £770,000 in an online auction.

Published 20th Apr 2017
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

The sale, which was held by Whisky Auctioneer, is believed to be a world record for Japanese whisky.

The collection included a 70cl bottle of Karuizawa's 1960 52 year old, one of just 41 bottles originally released for £12,000 in 2013, which sold for £100,100, setting a new UK and European record for a Japanese whisky.

The collection of 296 bottles, which had been built up over the last 10 years by a European collector, easily surpassed the pre-auction estimated value of around £500,000.

The auction was the subject of much attention from around the globe due to its size and rarity, with more than 5093 bids being placed for the bottles, and 89 successful buyers.


The 290 strong collection in all its wonderful glory. Picture: Whiksy Auctioneer

In terms of winning bids, the US came out on top with 84 bottles being purchased by American buyers.

While Germany had 43, Hong Kong had 40, the UK had 37 and Greek buyers took home 23.

Other successful buyers came from countries including Taiwan, China, Singapore, Canada, Belgium, Australia, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, France, Ireland and Poland.

The top 10 bottles by value to be sold during the auction were bought for a combined £217,060, with 7 of these bottles purchased by buyers in Hong Kong and the other 3 heading to Germany.

The Karuizawa 1960 Single Cask #5127 / The Archer. Picture: Whisky Auctioneer

The Top 10: 

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• Karuizawa 1960 Single Cask #5627 / The Archer £100,100

• Karuizawa 1963 Single Cask 50 Year Old #5132 £24,700

• Karuizawa Honor Sumo Collection / 1981 / 1982 / 1983 £17,100

• Karuizawa 1964 Single Cask 48 Year Old #3603 / Wealth Solutions £17,100

• Karuizawa 45 Year Old Single Cask #1946 / Aqua of Life £12,700

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• Karuizawa 1995 Single Cask 18 Year Old #5022 / Ghost Series #2 - Only 22 Bottles £10,300

• Karuizawa 1981 Single Cask #158 / Sakura Cask - Only 45 Bottles £9,700

• Karuizawa Four Decades Ghost Series #5 / 1 of 24 Bottles £9,260

• Karuizawa 1970 Single Cask #6227 / Geisha Label £8,100

• Karuizawa 1983 Single Cask #3557 / Nepal Bottling £8,000

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Karuizawa whisky

Now one of the world’s most coveted whiskies, Karuizawa distillery stopped production in 2000.

The collection auctioned by the Perth based Whisky Auctioneer covered almost every expression created by the renowned Japanese distillery.

It is the first time such an extensive collection has been made available for auction anywhere in the world.

Iain McClune, founder and owner of Whisky Auctioneer said: “I don’t think we ever expected to have this much interest in our collection of Karuizawa, regardless of its rarity and collectability.

"Despite being a UK-based auction, only 37 of these bottles will remain on our shores. The international profile of the winning bids truly underline the global appeal of rare whisky at the moment, with these bottles soon heading off to 19 different countries, located across four different continents.”

Rare whisky expert Andy Simpson from Rare Whisky 101 said: “Given the vast demand for Karuizawa whisky in recent years, we wondered whether the market might have begun cool for this iconic distillery. However, judging by the global interest and the prices paid for this most recent auction, it would appear that Japanese whisky is still at the apex of many collectors’ wish-lists.

"What we don’t know, of course, if whether any of these bottles will resurface on the secondary market in years to come, or whether they will be opened, enjoyed and forever lost to the collector market.”

The buyer of the Karuizawa 1960 "The Archer", who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "I was given the chance to try my first Karuizawa whisky sample a few years ago, and I immediately fell in love with it.

"When I saw Whisky Auctioneer’s collection of Karuizawa whiskies, including the oldest and rarest I knew straight away that I had bid for this once in a lifetime chance. I am absolutely thrilled to have secured this incredible whisky, in the knowledge that it was distilled only a few years after Karuizawa started production in 1955 and that it’s only one of 41 bottles ever produced.

"I’ve won an important piece of history that will take pride of place at the heart of my collection."

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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