he Three Continents Collection, comprising whiskies from Scotland, Japan and USA, is an extensive ensemble of both some of the hardest to find and the most on-trend whiskies currently on the market. This collection, put together by a single owner, is made up of nearly 5,000 bottles. In Part I, we explore the diversity the global whisk(e)y industry has to offer.
The Three Continents Collection is, as its name may suggest, split into three key constituents:
- Scotland, Europe: The home of the secondary market for whisky and the core of this collection from Highland Park to Auchentoshan, from Macallan to Bowmore.
- Japan, Asia: The rising star of the secondary market. Japan’s closed distilleries are comprehensively represented with over 60 bottles combined of Karuizawa and Hanyu in Part I alone.
- USA, North America: As an American collection at heart, The Three Continents features many home-grown whiskeys from Kentucky and beyond, with rare barrel picks from Willett and core range from the Van Winkle stable taking center stage.
S cotch Whisky is the most widely traded spirit in the secondary market. In recent years its value has increased significantly, with new collectors emerging across the globe. The market for collectible whiskies is synonymous with a handful of prized distilleries, not least The Macallan, Bowmore and Glenfiddich, all of which are represented in this sale. In fact, collectable bottles from each of Scotland’s whisky-making regions are included within this extensive collection.
T he genesis of Whisky Distillation in Japan can be largely attributed to two men; The first is Shinjiro Torii, an Osaka born apprentice Pharmacist and subsequent wine merchant who began his journey into spirits with his own blend, “Torys Whisky” in 1919.
The second is Masataka Taketsuru, the son of a Sake Brewer in Hiroshima. Having studied chemistry and with knowledge of fermentation from the Sake-making process, Masataka travelled to Scotland to study whisky distilling first hand. On his return, Masataka Taketsuru was recruited by Shinjiro Torii to work on his new Japanese Distillery project located between Osaka and Kyoto in Yamazaki.
After a partnership of roughly 10 years, Taketsuru parted ways with Suntory to begin his own project, which went on to find its own success as Nikka
As the years progressed, Japan’s domestic whisky industry went through cycles of success followed by significant dips in popularity. When times were bad, it wasn’t unusual for distilleries to close, as was the case with their Scottish counterparts. Two closed distilleries from Japan have managed to capture the interests of the collector’s market, the first being Hanyu, most famous for the Card Player Series, the second is Karuizawa
Founded in the 1950s, Karuizawa was a distillery whose future was always uncertain, not least because it was located at the foot of the active volcano, Mount Asama, Nagano Prefecture in the very centre of Japan’s main island of Honshu (本州). Karuizawa’s production continued throughout the 60s and began to gain some popularity in the 70s, however, similarly to Scotch, Japanese whisky went through a decline in the 80s with a drop in sales across the country. On December 31st, 2000, Karuizawa Distillery was mothballed and closed its doors for the last time. The following year a 12 year old Karuizawa was awarded Gold at London’s IWSC and marked the beginning of Japanese whisky’s rise to global popularity. Karuizawa Distillery was finally demolished in 2016 and so ended a legendary era in the history of Japanese WhiskyRead Less
F ew names are more significant in the world of American whiskey than that of Julian ‘Pappy’ Van Winkle. Synonymous with enthusiasts, whiskeys bottled under the Van Winkle brand have gone on to become amongst the most highly rated and sought-after, gathering an almost cult-like following. Many of those were distilled at the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery, which went on to create some of the finest and most sought-after bourbons ever produced before its closure in the early 1990s, with production moving to the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort.
W illett Distillery, located in Bardstown, Kentucky began life in 1936, just after the repeal of prohibition, and has a rather chequered history. Initially a success, particularly with the incorporation of popular brands such as Old Bardstown and Johnny Drum, the distillery fell victim to the bourbon decline of the late 1960s and 1970s, and as a result, Willett moved into the production of ethanol for a period of time. Eventually production ceased in the early 1980s, whilst Martha Willett, granddaughter of the founder Lambert Willett, and her husband purchased the distillery in 1984. They formed Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KDB), responsible not only for the bottling of old Willett stock, but also the sourcing and bottling of many other brands. Distilling at Willett was only restarted in 2011, so much of the whiskey bottled under the Willett brand over the years was actually sourced elsewhere.