An Unrivalled Collection of Rare Japanese Whisky Comes to Market

An Unrivalled Collection of Rare Japanese Whisky Comes to Market

T he most valuable Japanese whisky collection ever to come to auction, KODAWARI (which translates as "the art of perfection") will offer bottles from the most sought after distilleries, including Karuizawa, Yamazaki, Hakushu and Yoichi. Ahead of the sale, we sat down with the collector responsible for assembling this era-defining group of whiskies.

When did you start collecting and what inspired you to seek out rare Japanese whisky?

I started to collect whiskey around early 2000, so more than two decades ago, now. I just liked the story and iconography behind Japanese whisky, not to mention the taste!

The majority of the bottles in the collection are from the closed distillery Karuizawa. What is it about this distillery that piqued your interest?

I came across a bottle in Paris, France and I absolutely loved it. That’s why I started to pay attention and learn more about Japanese whisky, but particularly about Karuizawa distillery. As I mentioned when I first started discussing my collection with Sotheby’s, I often purchased multiple bottles of each whisky and opened at least one to taste, so I’ve been lucky to try almost all of the whiskies ever produced from Karuizawa. I think it’s safe to say that Karuizawa is my favourite distillery.

Some of these bottles are extremely hard to find. How difficult was it to seek out some of the most limited whiskies?

Nowadays these rare bottles are extremely difficult to find, but when I started collecting, nobody really knew much about Japanese Whisky. It wasn’t at all popular in the West at that time, so it was relatively easy to collect Japanese bottles. Most people considered it a risky purchase! I once bought 2 bottles of Karuizawa from La Maison Du Whisky in Paris, and as a thank you they gave me a bottle of Hanyu Card Player series for free. Those were the good old days!

You are one of the rare collectors who has tasted almost everything in their collection. Do you have any favourites amongst the bottles you’ve tried.

To be honest there are many favourites amongst the bottles have tried - they're all very high quality whiskies. At the top of my list is the 1967 Vintage Cask #6426, which is shared between La Maison Du Whisky and The Whisky Exchange. I think this is my favourite whisky of all time.

We should also mention that you have tried the Karuizawa 52 Year Old 1960. What do you remember about this incredible whisky?

The 1960 is the most memorable whisky that I’ve tried, especially understanding its rarity and significance. Unsurprisingly, it's such a high quality whisky after so many years of ageing. Drinking this bottle was as much about the emotional connection I have to it as was the enjoyment of the quality and complexity.

How do you tend to drink your whiskies? Is there a particular setting or location?

I drink these whiskies regularly. Just whenever I fancy a glass, really! There doesn’t have to be a particular occasion. I almost always drink whisky neat and never use ice. Sometimes I will add a few drops of water to experiment with the change in taste, but usually it’s straight up.

As a connoisseur of whisky and man who enjoys the finer things in life, are there any other items that you collect?

Yes, I am a keen collector of Cuban cigars and Swiss watches as well. Much in the same way as I drink my whiskies, I always smoke my cigars and wear my watches as well. These passions at to be enjoyed!

Well, you are clearly extremely passionate about Japanese Whisky. Why have you decided to sell your collection?

The bottles I’m selling at Sotheby’s over the next couple of auctions are only about 20% of my collection. I think at my age I probably won't be able to drink all of them within my lifetime and sometimes these rare bottles are meant to be shared with other collectors and drinkers. I want them to be enjoyed rather than keeping them in a dark cellar. This year we celebrate 100 years of Japanese Whisky, so it feels like a landmark moment for these whiskies and for me in my time of collecting. I will still keep and continue to enjoy the majority of my collection.

Whisky & Spirits

More from Sotheby's

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

arrow Created with Sketch. Back To Top