What’s the only thing better than 54 bottles of whisky? 54 bottles of whisky that represent every playing card in a deck.
That’s how Ichiro Akuto, whose grandfather founded Japan’s Hanyu whisky distillery in 1941, decided to honor the company before it permanently emptied its barrels. After Hanyu ceased production and Akuto acquired the company’s equipment, he embarked on a years-long project of matching scores of different leftover whiskies with dozens of card-themed bottles. At 54 in total, one whole set represents a complete deck of cards. Last week, one of only four known complete sets of Ichiro’s Card Series sold at Bonhams Hong Kong for more than $917,000—that’s almost $17,000 per bottle, though some would surely challenge the idea that all cards (not to mention whiskies) are worth the same amount.
To get a sense of the variety in Hanyu’s reserves, let’s go suit-by-suit to look at a few examples of the whiskies auctioned in this lot:
- The Six of Spades variety matured first in a hogshead cask, second in an Oloroso sherry butt. Distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2011, its alcohol by volume level is 56.8 percent.
- The Queen of Hearts variety matured first in a hogshead cask, second in a French Oak cognac wood barrel. Distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2006, its alcohol by volume level is 54 percent.
- The Eight of Clubs variety matured first in a hogshead cask, second in an American Oak puncheon cask. Distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2011, its alcohol by volume level is 57.5 percent.
- The Ace of Diamonds variety matured first in a hogshead cask, second in a cream sherry butt. Distilled in 1986 and bottled in 2008, its alcohol by volume level is 56.4 percent.
Food & Wine reports that the sale reflects an ongoing trend in which rare wines and spirits are breaking records at auctions. Indeed, this sale broke the price record for a collection of Japanese whisky, just as last year a lone Yamakazi broke the price record for a single bottle of Japanese whisky. (It sold for more than a third of the Ichiro Card Series’ price.) Last year too, Bonhams Hong Kong broke the all-time record for sales of single whisky bottles with a 1926 Macallan Valerio Adami that went for more than one million dollars.
It better be really, really good.
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