Scotch whisky faces stiff competition from international brands

Iain McClune of Whisky Auctioneer with a bottle of Karuizawa 1960 Single Cask. Picture: 
Fraser Band
Iain McClune of Whisky Auctioneer with a bottle of Karuizawa 1960 Single Cask. Picture: Fraser Band
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A reminder of the competition Scotch whisky faces from international distillers was given this week as global sales of Irish whiskey outstripped homegrown brands such as Chivas, The Glenlivet and Ballentine’s.

Pernod Ricard, the second largest distiller of Scotch behind Diageo, reported sales of Jameson’s in the US had risen 10 per cent - confirming its place as the firm’s best performer.

The collection of 296  Karuzaiwa  bottles easily surpassed the pre-auction estimated value of around �500,000. Picture: Fraser Band

The collection of 296 Karuzaiwa bottles easily surpassed the pre-auction estimated value of around �500,000. Picture: Fraser Band

The Paris-based drinks giant said total sales were up three per cent in the first three months of 2017, but that the key Chinese market “remains challenging for Scotch”.

Among its Scotch brands, Ballentine’s rose five per cent by volume over the year, while Chivas was down five per cent and Glenlivet single malt by two per cent, the BBC reported.

The news came days after a record price was paid for Japanese whisky.

Whisky Auctioneer, the Perth-based spirits specialists, organised the sale of what is thought to be the world’s largest known collection of rare Karuizawa whisky from Japan.

The total raised came to £770,000.

The collection included a 70cl bottle of Karuizawa’s 1960 52 year old - one of just 41 bottles originally released for £12,000 in 2013 - which sold for £100,100, setting a new UK and European record for a Japanese whisky.

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The collection of 296 bottles, which had been built up over the last 10 years by a European collector, easily surpassed the pre-auction estimated value of around £500,000.

The auction was the subject of much attention from around the globe due to its size and rarity, with more than 5093 bids being placed for the bottles, and 89 successful buyers.

The top 10 bottles by value to be sold during the auction were bought for a combined £217,060, with 7 of these bottles purchased by buyers in Hong Kong and the other 3 heading to Germany.

Karuizawa distillery stopped production in 2000 and has since become one of the world’s most coveted whiskies, It is the first time such an extensive collection has been made available for auction anywhere in the world.

Iain McClune, founder and owner of Whisky Auctioneer said: “I don’t think we ever expected to have this much interest in our collection of Karuizawa, regardless of its rarity and collectability.

“Despite being a UK-based auction, only 37 of these bottles will remain on our shores. The international profile of the winning bids truly underline the global appeal of rare whisky at the moment, with these bottles soon heading off to 19 different countries, located across four different continents.”

Andy Simpson, of whisky specialists Rare Whisky 101, said: “Given the vast demand for Karuizawa whisky in recent years, we wondered whether the market might have begun cool for this iconic distillery. However, judging by the global interest and the prices paid for this most recent auction, it would appear that Japanese whisky is still at the apex of many collectors’ wish-lists.

“What we don’t know, of course, if whether any of these bottles will resurface on the secondary market in years to come, or whether they will be opened, enjoyed and forever lost to the collector market.”