The rare whisky market continues to soar even during a global pandemic, On March 18 in London, Sotheby’s achieved a new auction record, selling a bottle of Karuizawa 52- Year- Old Zodiac Rat Cask #56271960 for $435,273 (£363,000 ) to a private collector in Asia, well exceeding its pre-sale estimate of £160,000-220,000.
So, what makes fine Japanese whisky such a collectible spirit?
We asked Makiyo Masa, founder of dekantā, the world’s leading online retailer, which sells more than 2000 types of Japanese whisky as well as shochu, sake, other spirits and wines. Masa grew up in a family distilling business and launched dekantā in May 2015 with the goal of filling a gap in the retail market specializing in Japanese whiskies.
TCT: Makiyo, what sets Japanese whisky apart?
“Japanese whisky has its own sense of place, from water to earth. The Japanese tradition is to pursue the best with an idea for fine details. That is what makes Japanese whisky truly special.” There are many special small distillers that produce great whisky, not just the largest companies. We are always looking for and sourcing the best we can find.”
TCT: We understand that online retails sales for wine and spirits are brisk, even during this Spring global pandemic. How is dekantā holding up?
“At this time, we feel very grateful to have developed such a strong online platform with a network of international clients, who we refer to as the ‘dekanta family.’ We envisage little to no disruption to our online orders and deliveries, and as such we have not been impacted as heavily as other businesses who rely on trading in person. However, our hearts go out to all the bars and restaurants across the globe who are struggling through this pandemic.
“Our top priority is the safety of our customers and our staff. Our staff are working from home wherever possible, and we’re handling deliveries with additional measures with regards to hygiene. It has been a logistical challenge, but the team are communicating regularly from their remote working, to keep up morale, and to ensure as little disruption as possible to our regular operations.
TCT: Sotheby’s Auction House in London sold a bottle of Karuizawa 52- Year- Old Zodiac Rat Cask #56271960 for $435,273 (£363,000 ) on March 18. What makes this whisky so special?
“This is a truly spectacular bottle, and it is very exciting to see this new bottle breaking a record previously held by the Yamazaki 50- Year Old. We have seen huge demand from our most ardent collectors for rare and old bottles of Karuizawa whisky. The Karuizawa distillery produced liquid with a notably rich and sherry flavor before it was forced to close its doors in 2000. The remaining casks were sold to private individuals, who have been bottling the liquid independently as spectacular limited editions in recent years. As a result, the distillery has developed something of a cult status among Japanese whisky aficionados.”
TCT: Has dekantā sold a similar bottle?
“It’s highly likely that we will have sold one of these bottles to a client through our concierge service, by which we source the most rare and highly sought after bottles of Japanese whisky. The most expensive bottle set that dekantā has ever sold to a single client is a collection of rare Karuizawa bottles totaling over one million dollars. It is an extensive collection of over 270 bottles, with distillation dates ranging from throughout the distillery’s brief history.”
TCT: Well, we feel very lucky since you brought us a bottle of Karuizawa Spirit of Asama Single Malt to try. Tell us about it.
“The Karuizara Spirit of Asama s a very rare and delicious single malt whisky with a lower proof, just 48 percent. It is very hard to find on the market today anice, as I noted, this legendary distillery closed in 2000. Only 400 casks were left.” – Suggested retail price: $2,400m /70 cl bottle. Info and to purchase
TCT: The other single malt your brough is from Chichibu, a small distillery of only nine employees.
“Mizunara Heads 2011 is a higher proof single malt whisky named from the type of porous wood from the Mizunara tree used to make the casks, a process that can take 200 years . “ – Suggested retail price: $2399 Info and purchase
Listen to The Connected Table SIPS with Makiyo Masa, dekantā, on Japanese Whisky
Japanese master distillers are known for their pursuit of perfection. Rare bottles of whisky can command thousands of dollars at auction. But buying a bottle for home or gifting is easy thanks to dekantā, the world’s leading online retailer, which sells more than 2000 types of Japanese whisky as well as shochu, sake, other spirits and wines. Makiyo Masa, founder of dekantā, explains what makes Japanese whisky special and why you should consider a bottle on your spirits shelf. www.dekanta.com
years “on the rocks” meant climbing the ‘Gunks in New York’s Hudson Valley and managing rock climbing gyms in New York City for native New Yorker Ralph Erenzo. These days it has a new meaning for him as Co-Founder of Tuthilltown Distillery, located on a former gristmill in the verdant Gardiner countryside just a short
drive from where we live.
Ralph purchased the land, conveniently located near the base of the Shawangunk Mountains, a rock climbing mecca, originally to set up a climbers campground. Fate and nosy neighbors intervened and these plans did not happen. Left with a large amount of land and no business plan, Ralph did his research. He found the best solution was to secure an agriculture license. Doing more research he decided to build a distillery, joining up with business partner, Brian Lee in 2003 to establish one of the first distilleries in New York State since Prohibition. Two years later they produced their first small batches of vodka made from discarded apples from nearby orchards. Today Tuthilltown has many brands including our favorite, Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey.
We remember our first visit to the small distillery; today the compound has grown to several buildings and Tuthillhouse Restaurant.
Tuthilltown’s a game changer in the Hudson Valley. Through his lobbying efforts in Albany, Ralph is widely credited with helping to bring back small batch production to the region. Last weekend we attended the Straight Up New York Crafts Spirits Festival at Black Dirt Distillery in Orange County. Many of the newer distillers we met at Straight Up New York credit Ralph for their move into the business. His work at the State level resulted in the passage of the Farm Distillery Act which permits New York farms to establish distilleries on site and sell their agricultural spirits at the farm.
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There’s probably nobody in the world today with a better handle on the pulse of the whisky industry than Dave Pickerell.
A veteran of the industry, Dave has spent a career moving the craft of making whisky forward through his knowledge and expertise in distilling. First at Makers Mark, where as Master Distiller for 14 years, he was in charge of making sure that the legacy of the Samuels family’s 19 barrel-at-a-time distillation recipe was kept true, and then as head of Oak View Consulting, the company he founded upon his departure from Makers Mark to help bring his distilling expertise to the budding craft spirits industry.
Some of his projects, like Vermont’s Whistle Pig and Hillrock Estate in New York State’s Hudson Valley, are game changers. Others, like Old Smoky Moonshine in Gatlinburg Tennessee, which he also helped start, are more mainstream. However, all are close to his heart, as they’ve, with his input, helped revive an industry that had been lost after the temperance movement essentially shut down regional spirits production just under 100 years ago.
One of this favorite projects may be the re-birth of the Distillery at Mount Vernon, President George Washington’s Virginia homestead. Our first President made whisky on the property during his lifetime there, but the distillery was shut down and dismantled after his death. When the Trust decided to re-create it, they tapped Dave, a West Point grad by the way, to help research and build it again.
At any given time, Dave has about 20 projects in the works worldwide, some he helps start and then moves on from, others, like Whistle Pig and Hillrock, he continuously works with, creating new product lines while acting as Master Distiller. Regardless of his role in any given product he oversees, Dave’s input and knowledge in the whisky business is unmatched.
We welcome Dave to The Connected Table LIVE! On Wednesday April 27 to chat whisky, Whistle Pig, and his incredible achievements at Hillrock Estate, America’s first whisky made from all estate-grown grain.