What you need to know:
- Suntory is readying a global release of the Yamazaki 55 Year Old, the oldest Yamazaki yet.
- It first debuted as a 100-bottle release for the Japanese market in June 2020, later fetching a record hammer price of US$795,000 in August 2020 at Bonhams HK.
- The Yamazaki 55 is a blend of single malts that includes distillate from all the way back in 1960, where it was distilled and aged in Mizunara casks under the watch of Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory.
- It will retail for US$60,000, and is expected to come to market September 2021.
- It will be rolled out in key markets of UK, US, China and Taiwan. Select retailers including Harrods, The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt will carry the bottle.
The oldest Yamazaki to date, with malt distilled under Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory. (Image Source: Suntory)
By now the cat is safely out of the bag. Well, actually the cat was out even back in June of 2020, when just 100 bottles were released for the Japanese market.
Which is funny I should point out, as Suntory got a massive reaction on social media channels when it posted a sideways photo of the bottle to announce the global launch of the Suntory 55 Year Old, much of which included speculation of what the second digit would be. Wouldn't it be funny if, after more than a year since the initial launch, Suntory revealed a second digit other than 5? Like suddenly, it was 58 or something.
The culprit of much speculation and confusion. (Image Source: Suntory)
In any case, this bottle was of course released to a red hot market last year, and even as recent as August of 2020, the bottled fetched an eye-popping record hammer price of US$795,000 at Bonhams HK. This bottle continues to hold the record for the most expensive Japanese whisky ever sold at auction. Until the "surprise" 58 year old bottle (which I made up as a joke) shows up of course.
The bottle is now being readied by Suntory for an expanded global release, where it will retail for US$60,000, and is expected to come to market September 2021.
This follows Yamazaki's reveal last month of a reformulated Yamazaki 25.
(Image Source: Suntory)
The guy who set the record for the bottle at Bonhams HK must really feel on top of the world, paying 13x the price it is about to retail for.
The Yamazaki 55 is a blend of single malts that includes distillate from all the way back in 1960, where it was distilled and aged in Mizunara casks under the watch of Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory.
Subsequently, Suntory's second master blender, Keizo Saji, oversaw the distillation of the bottle's second and third components which were distilled in 1961 and 1964. These were aged in American White Oak casks.
The final selection and blending was done by fifth-generation Master Blender Shinji Fukuyo, and under the watch of third-generation Master Blender Shingo Torii. It was finally bottled in 2020 at an astounding 46% abv (a real feat for a 55 year old whisky).
For more on the history behind Suntory's foremost distillery, and perhaps the greatest Japanese distillery of all, check out our WhiskyDex on Yamazaki here.
(Image Source: Suntory)
Official Tasting Notes
Sandalwood, Well-ripened Fruit
Sweet, Slightly bitter notes, Unfolding to a touch of Wood from the Mizunara casks
Rich and Sweet, Slight bitterness, Hint of Smokiness
(Image Source: Suntory)
“Throughout the process of blending Yamazaki 55, I used as inspiration the passage of time and ‘wabi-sabi’ – the Japanese belief that imperfections can help to ultimately contribute to perfection.
While I often view other extra-aged whiskies as art, I consider Yamazaki 55 to be more like a Buddhist statue: calm and mysterious, requiring time to truly enjoy the inner beauty.”
- Shinji Fukuyo, Fifth-Generation Master Blender
The bottle is made of crystal engraved with the name "Yamazaki" and lacquered with gold dust. The mouth of the bottle is packaged in handmade washi paper from Echizen and bound with a Kyo-kumihimo plaited cord traditionally from Kyoto. Finally, the presentation box is made of Mizunara and coated with suruga lacquer. Fancy.
No word as of yet about how many bottles there will be, but it is said to be extremely limited. It will be rolled out in key markets of UK, US, China and Taiwan. Select retailers including Harrods, The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt will carry the bottle.
The Arts Club in London, UK, where you can try the Yamazaki 55. (Image Source: The Arts Club)
It will also be served on-trade at London venues including The Arts Club, Annabel's and Claridge's.
It might be of some interest to note that for every bottle sold, Suntory will donate US$5,000 to The White Oak Initiative, a project whose mission is to conserve the white oak forests in the US.
Happy Hunting and Kanpai!