The Largest Auction of Rare Japanese Whisky Ever Is Happening Next Month

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Two-hundred-and-ninety bottles of some of the rarest whisky in existence will be auctioned off in the United Kingdom next month. The unprecedented lot, which will be offered from April 5 to April 17, is entirely made up of bottles from the famous Karuizawa distillery, which ceased operation nearly two decades ago.

At auction, these bottles could stand to fetch more than half a million dollars, but no one really knows the true value of the lot yet, because no one’s ever seen this many bottles sold at one time.

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While the average appraisal per bottle averages out to something like $2,500, there are some big gems in the collection. The headlining member of this auction lot is a bottle of Karuizawa 1960, from the distillery of the same name that closed in 2000. In 2015, a bottle of Karuizawa 1960 sold for about $118,000, setting the record for a single bottle.

Since that 2015 auction, Japanese whisky has continued to grow in popularity, partially due to the influence of pop culture, partially due to prominent awards and accolades that have driven demand higher.

And though the demand has grown, the supply has not — particularly when it comes to the old and rare products. A bottle of 50-year-old Yamazaki sold in the U.K. for more than $77,000 last year. And as far as the Karuizawa goes, stories have been written about the Indiana Jones–esque lengths people will go to just to hold a bottle.

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But these are all individual bottles, so this auction, while exciting, is also unexplored territory for auctioneers.

Iain McClune, founder and owner of Whisky Auctioneer, collected these bottles himself over the last decade. He’s not sure what to expect, in part because there have never been any comparable offerings.

“While we’ve seen a lot of our business come from within the U.K. and Europe,” McClune explained in a press release, “this particular collection is likely to have global appeal. We expect to see some significant interest from rare whisky–collector hotspots such as the U.S., Taiwan, and, of course, Karuizawa’s homeland of Japan.”

Whisky Auctioneer opens bidding at 11 p.m. on April 5, and closes the auction at 7 p.m. on April 17.

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