Fotini Charalampopoulou

Yamazaki, 55 Year Old, is a highly regarded Japanese whisky. It is the oldest and the most valuable bottle in Japan’s history. The whisky was initially released in 2020, with only 100 bottles available in Japan and an additional 100 for the rest of the world, for only JP¥3.3 million (around US$31,000); it has since been sold for up to $780,000 at auction, surpassing the Karuizawa 1960 as the most expensive Japanese whisky.

This limited bottling has caused excitement and demand among Japanese whisky collectors and enthusiasts.

The distillery that produce this famous whisky is Japan’s first Single Malt producer, founded almost a century ago by Shinjiro Torii on the outskirts of Kyoto. The distillery has since been recognized worldwide and gained critical acclaim for its range of whiskies, including 18 and 25-Year-Old malts. The Chief Blenders at Yamazaki have carefully managed their stock, releasing 35 and 50-Year-Old expressions in recent years.

The Yamazaki 55 Year Old is a true masterpiece, vatted from Mizunara and American White Oak casks distilled by Shinjiro Torii in 1960 and 1964, respectively. It was aged for over 50 years until current Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo, the Grandson of the founder, blended it. The whisky is housed in an immaculate black Mizunara box, wrapped in layers of ink-black handmade Echizen washi paper and fastened with a plaited cord of 24 individual strands.

Japanese whisky, led by Yamazaki 55, has become the second most valuable whisky category on the secondary market, following Scotch. Japanese whisky’s origins date back to 1853 when a US naval officer named Matthew C. Perry arrived on Japanese shores with a cask of American whiskey, which captivated the Japanese palate. The genesis of Japanese whisky distillation can be attributed to Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru, who brought knowledge and expertise from Scotland to Japan.

Masataka Taketsuru, who studied in Scotland, entered Shinjiro Torii’semploy at Kotobukiya, now known as Suntory, and began the journey towards Suntory’s first Yamazaki whisky. Yamazaki distillery was established in the village of Yamazaki in 1923, and Suntory’s first Yamazaki whisky ran from their stills on 11 November 1924. Despite rising and falling in popularity over the years, Japanese whisky has become a prized and valuable category, with Yamazaki 55 at its pinnacle.

Official Tasting Notes of Yamazaki 55
Deep amber distinctive of Mizunara casks.

A robust aroma redolent of sandal wood. A sweet, mature bouquet like well-ripened fruit.
A soft, smooth first sip that blossoms in the mouth with flavor. A mixture of sweet and slightly bitter, followed by a woody note from the Mizunara cask.

Slightly bitter, a fragrance like scented wood and a hint of smokiness. A sweet, rich, lingering finish