Booze | October 29, 2021 12:50 pm

An Airport Auction of This 55-Year Old Japanese Whisky Is Nearing $800,000

Available via Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, a reminder that travel retail holds some nearly impossible-to-obtain spirits

Yamazaki 55, a rare Japanese whisky, is up for auction at an Amsterdam airport online site
A few bottles of Yamazaki 55 are making their way to travel retail sites — and they may sell 'em via auction.
House of Suntory

A recently-released bottle of Yamazaki 55 Years Old whisky is closing in on an $800,000 bid during an unusual auction held by a high-end spirits shop at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, according to Forbes.

The Japanese whisky, the oldest-ever and rarest expression in the history of The House of Suntory, was first released in 2020 with a 100-bottle allocation worldwide. Recently the drinks company announced that further bottles would appear in global travel retail channels for a recommended retail price of $60,000.

What’s unusual here is that while there are several bottles of high-end spirits you can only find in airport shops — Bruichladdich, for instance, usually makes one of their annual and highly-coveted Octomore releases a travel retail exclusive, although not this year — an auction is not the usual method of selling these.

Outside fo the ExQuisite store at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport
Outside fo the ExQuisite store at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport
ExQuisite

ExQuisite, the Amsterdam store, specializes in “luxury consumables.” As an Instagram post from the store notes, “This is not a sale — it’s better. We provide the bottle, you name a price. To have a chance to get your hands on this rarity, what are you waiting for?”

As Beam Suntory’s global travel retail marketing director, Manuel González, noted (as reported by Forbes), “This highly limited-edition product will be showcased in some of our best locations. We are committed to growing travel retail by reinforcing our offering.”

The current highest bid is, interestingly, from a user named “Mila Kunis,” and yes, the actress is a fan of whisky (and works with Jim Beam) … but we have no idea if it’s really her.

In our review of Yamazaki 55, we said, “This 55-year expression was partly distilled in 1960 and aged in Mizunara casks and partly distilled in 1964 and aged in White Oak casks. The final blend was bottled in 2020 — it’s a lovely balance of sweet, woody and bitter (yes, we tried a few sips), but we’d be remiss if we didn’t say it’s $60,000 and the 12- and 18-year are perfectly great and not going to cost you five figures (the standout Yamazaki is the 25-year, but that is, unfortunately, also the cost of a car).”

The Travel Retail (TR) category obviously took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with increased air travel, an appetite by consumers for high-end spirits and new buying formats available (such as this online auction), we can see a return of boozy exclusives at global airports. While this list is a few years old, we did a roundup of TR-exclusives that might help you find a rare whisky or Cognac during your next vacation.