Historic Auction of Mammoth Karuizawa Collection

Post by Stefan Van Eycken, Tokyo

Whisky fans with a penchant for fine Karuizawas may want to look into raising their credit limit in preparation for a historic auction that will be run by the folks over at Whisky Auctioneer the first half of April.
With almost 300 bottlings offered as individual lots, this is – as far as we know – the biggest collection of Karuizawas ever offered at auction. It covers the whole spectrum from the 60s (12 single casks), 70s (30 bottlings), the Golden Age from 1980 to 1984 (99 single casks) through the second half of the 80s, the 90s and up to the final vintage, 2000. It also includes a selection of official bottlings, some of which were only available at the Distillery shop.
It’s not a complete collection, but with Karuizawa that is not in the realm of possibilities. Many casks were bottled in small batches for sale at the distillery, when it was open to visitors. The staff would just take a few litres off different casks, pour it in bottles (literally by hand – I’ve seen this being done!), hand-label the bottles and put them in the shop. These “distillery-exclusive” bottles came in 700ml and 250ml. When stock of a given vintage was getting low at the shop, they would just take some more off the cask or, if it was empty, find another cask. Mercian also had a program in place for a while where people could mail order a bottle or two from a particular vintage. Some of these bottles show up at auction in Japan from time to time, but most of them were just … opened and drunk – as people were want to do in those days. This all goes to explain why a “complete” collection is just not something that can ever be accomplished.
This offering includes the 1960 (#5127), 1963 (#5132) and 1964 (#3603), but not the 1965 trio (2 single casks and a third one that’s a vatting of the two) recently released by La Maison du Whisky. Presumably, this collection was transferred to Whisky Auctioneer before that release. It does include some of the rarest of the rare though: the Founders’ Cask (1981/2012, #2084) which was never publicly available, the Sakura cask for Germany (#158, ltd. 45 bottles), the 1983 Geisha for Taiwan (#8333, ltd. 68 bottles), a 1991 for Taiwan (#259, ltd. 85 bottles), our very own Ghost No.2 (Rouge Cask, 1995, #5022, ltd. 22 bottles)
This auction presents a rare opportunity for long-time collectors of Karuizawa to fill some holes in their collection, as well as a chance for those who got to the party late and weren’t able to snatch some bottles when they were still available at normal prices from retailers, to pick up a glory or two to open on a special occasion. The auction will run online at www.whiskyauctioneer.com as individual lots from 5th to 17th April. I’ve got my eyes on a few lots, but I’m not telling you which, of course…


Unknown said…
Stefan, did you get the bottles you targeted? I managed to get these two, Karuizawa 1981 Single Cask 33 Year Old #136 / Artifices Series Warren Khong #009 and Karuizawa 1984 Single Cask #8173. I found prices were a tad higher than normal due to all the attention.

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