Last week the release of the Yamazaki 55-year-old made
global headlines and shook the whisky industry. Set to be released in June
2020, the new bottle by Suntory's most famous distillery will retail for
US$27,500, excluding tax. We look at how the 100 bottles are to be
distributed in Japan and the potential knock-on effect this release will have on other Yamazaki releases and the Japanese Whisky market more generally.
The release price of the latest Yamazaki 55 Year-Old, announced last week, is
the last thing collectors are concerned about since it will be immediately dwarfed by secondary market pricing. In the spirit of fairness,
Suntory is selling the limited 100 bottles through a ballot that started on
February 5th and will end on the 14th. The bottles will come in the standard
700ml size, at 46% ABV and will be distributed via a ballot only to Japanese citizens.
Released on the year of the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, this release will go
down in history as the oldest Japanese whisky ever made. Each bottle of 55 will
be engraved with the owner's name, simply to limit selling on the secondary
market. Why? Well, because there are astronomical profits to be made
immediately after release.
The Yamazaki distillery’s oldest whiskies to date are the three versions of the
Yamazaki 50-Year-Old. The 2005 edition came first, followed by another in 2007
and the last one in 2011. Watching the auction world closely, we see that, as
expected, the first edition commands the highest price with it surpassing
US$430,000 at a recent live auction in Asia. The 2007 comes second, with the
2011 third, now trading for approximately US$300,000 and steadily rising. This
is extraordinary, when the retail prices were between US$15,000-30,000 six to
seven years before!
In previous years, new releases under a certain range often drive up prices of
the pre-existing, often more aged bottles. For example, Hibiki Blender's Choice
drove up the 17, 21, and 30 Year Old bottlings. Therefore it is likely the new
55-year-old release will drive up the prices of the previously released
50-year-old while rapidly appreciating in value, too. The most interesting
point will be the extra 5 years of maturation and if this will send the new
release skyrocketing in value, eventually even surpassing the Yamazaki 50.
Japanese whisky makers in general work strategically in discontinuing popular
aged ranges and replacing them with non-age statement expressions. This helps
them better manage the scarcity of aged stock and thus sending brand value
soaring. The Japanese whisky market works slowly and carefully, and this new
Yamazaki release is yet another strategy for long-term gains.
The Yamazaki 55 ballot is currently running. The release is only available for
Japan residents, so sadly it will be out of reach for the rest of the world.
However, we do have access to other releases. For current listings click here.