The Real Reason This Bottle Of Whiskey Sold For $559,200

You read the headline and clicked. So, you're at least aware that over the past couple of days a bottle of whiskey sold for more than $500,000.

On January 14, Airport World reported that after a bidding skirmish between eight customers, a bottle of Yamazaki 55-year-old whisky kept in a duty-free store in Istanbul Airport was sold for €488,000, which, depending on the day, roughly converts to $559,200 (via Food & Wine). Part of the reason the bottle was so expensive was the sheer scarcity of it. The Airport World piece explains that the bottles were released in two 100-bottle launches. One occurred in 2020 and was distributed throughout Japan via a lottery system. The second was given out in 2021.

Unfortunately for us, the whisky might just be that good – provided that you can afford it. Writing for DMARGE, Jamie Weiss described the 55-year-old Yamazaki as "unlike any other whisky – hell, unlike any other liquid – I've ever put past my lips." Just as unfortunately for him, however, is the fact that after managing to try it, other Japanese whiskeys could never compare. So, the rest of us aren't missing too much then.

But why is it so expensive?

As Airport World mentioned, the 55-year-old Yamazaki was so expensive because of scarcity. However, that is only one part of the story. In a 2018 interview with Road & Kingdoms, Brian Ashcraft, author of "Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World's Most Desirable Spirit with Tasting Notes from Japan's Leading Whisky Blogger," explained that in the early '80s, Japanese whisky waned in domestic popularity. Shochu had shown up. It was new, different, and trendy. So, Suntory, the company that produces Yamazaki, began to produce less whisky.

In 2006, the popularity and prices of Japanese whisky began to rise again because, with less whisky produced in the '80s, there was a natural scarcity of the suddenly popular spirit. The price never looked back. That's only the first part though. The second is that in December 2021, Suntory announced it will raise the price of its product. 

As Forbes detailed, the point is that the company needed more money to invest in production to meet demand. After all, they spent decades working under more cramped conditions. So, the 55-year-old Yamazaki was already set up to be an expensive whisky by virtue of its place in the waning days of early Japanese whisky distilling. And, of course, it's delectable.