Our analysis of the Karuizawa whiskey dropping on Vint

Welcome to Wine and Whiskey Insider for 12th January 2022 – FREE issue.

We use Moneyball tactics to discover undervalued, mispriced, and hidden gems in Fractional Investing.

Wine in 2022

Wine started 2022 off right with a positive first week.

All stats come from assets trading on secondary markets at Otis, Collectable, and Rally

This syncs nicely with the Liv-Ex 1000, which was up sharply through December last year to a new all-time high. Sotheby’s also reported a record year with $132m worth of wine and spirits sold at auction.

Courtesy Liv-Ex

Equity indices are a rotten benchmark for alts like wine, but Liv-ex has helpfully done the maths for us comparing the Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 to some global indices.

Courtesy Liv-ex

Pretty decent performance overall beating out four of the six benchmarks. However, this is also another case of bearing the Y-Axis in mind (spoke about this as well in yesterday’s Rare Books Insider).

If you’re only looking at the mooning chart above you’d think it was going parabolic.

But have a look at the chart below, which extends out both the X and Y axis (though still not to zero). Makes the recent run-up from mid-2020 to today look a bit more reasonable in the big scheme. Yes, we’re at an all-time high (ATH), but it’s is nothing like we saw from 2004 to 2010, where the index was more than 3.5x.

This is the Liv-Ex 100 rather than Liv-Ex 1000, but you get the point

The biggest winner in 2021 was a still (relatively) affordable champagne – 2002 Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut – that can be had for just shy of $1,000 per bottle.

I’ll take one of each, please.

In fact, most of 2021’s top ten are pretty affordable on a per-bottle basis. The fifth-best-performer on the list, a 2012 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, can still be had for $300 – $400 per bottle.

Last Week

Fractional secondary markets

Two assets started trading last week on Rally with slightly positive results. The 2013 Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanee le Beaux Monts rose 15.4% while the 2014 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Assortment declined 10.5%.

Auctions

Nothing of note – please let me know if I’ve missed something.

This Week

Assets dropping on marketplaces

One new drop this week coming from Vint – Karuizawa “36 Views of Mt Fuji”

  • Market Cap: $187,000
  • Inferred Value: $150,000
  • Drop Details: 1/12/22 on Vint
  • Recommendation: [INSIDERS ONLY]

Deep Dive

About the Karuizawa Distillery

This looks tasty

The Karuizawa Distillery was established in 1955 at the base of Mount Asama. At a height of 850 meters above sea level, the distillery had low temperatures and high humidity, giving it an ideal temperature for whisky production.

According to the Whisky Exchange, in the late 1950s, Japan was able to import some of the barley also being used by Macallan. The Karuizawa Distillery soon gained popularity in Japan, but little of the whisky left the country.

In 2001, the distillery closed its doors and its whisky was still little known outside of Japan. It wasn’t until 2007 that its product started gaining international acclaim when a distributor started bottling single casks of whisky and exporting them to Europe.

About the Whiskies

The bottle designs

The Karuizawa distillery brand is the hottest name in the market. This collection stands out because it comes in a set of 36 bottles with different images for each bottle. These aren’t normal images, however, but reproductions of art by early 19th-century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

In 1830, Hokusai released The Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, considered his masterpiece. The images depict 36 different perspectives with Mount Fuji ever-present in each one of them.

Mount Fuji Seen Below a Wave at Kanagawa

The most famous piece is the first picture in the series, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. It is also the image of the first edition, or the first bottle, in the collection. Every corresponding piece from the book corresponds to the edition number of each bottle.

Currently, there are no complete sets available on the market and there has only been one recorded sale of the entire set, which occurred on Oct. 7 2021 – about three months ago.

The whisky

The whisky was bottled from 1999-2000.

As an interesting aside, there are no longer are any casks from the Karuizawa distillery as they have all been bottled.

Price Analysis

Someone bought the complete set at a Sotheby’s auction, paying 1,125,000 HDK ($144k) for the entire 36-bottle set on Oct 7th 2021. It is the only known complete collection and the only recorded sale of a complete collection. Vint is offering its Karuizawa collection for $187k, first for Early Access investors, and then for the general public on Jan. 12.

Is the $187k price justified?

Since October, two major whisky indices – Whisky Stas and Rare Whisky 101 – have documented significant appreciation in the Karuizawa distillery. It’ll be approximately 3 months since the purchase from the Sotheby’s auction.

Rare Whisky 101’s Karuizawa Index notes a 10.9% appreciation in Karuizawa whiskies from October through the end of November, at which time prices remained relatively flat. This would put the value of the set at about $160k.

Whisky Stats’ Karuizawa Index notes an 11.1% appreciation in Karuizawa whiskies from October through the end of November. Data is not yet available for price points beyond November. This would also put the value of the set at about $160k by the beginning of December.

Karuizawa since the beginning of 2020 courtesy WhiskeyStats

Both indices put the value of the collection at $160k by the beginning of December. But did Vint overpay for the collection at the Christie’s auction?

For that, we have to analyze any sales occurring late in 2021 with much of the appreciation for the year already priced in.

Eight individual bottles were sold at a Bonham’s auction in late November 2021, at an average price of $3,800 per bottle. If we multiply by 36 – the amount in the set – the 36 Views has an inferred value of about $139k. There is a premium of about $3k for the first bottle which has a label of the Great Wave on it, putting the valuation of the total collection at $142k in late November.

Let’s assume that each month saw an equal distribution of appreciation throughout the year. According to Vint, the 1-year appreciation for the ‘36 Views’ collection was 49% or about 3.4% per month.

Given that the Bonham’s sale occurred in late November and that the drop is occurring mid-January, let’s generously apply a 3.4% rate of appreciation for December. Even with appreciation in mind, the collection’s inferred value is $147k.

Conclusions

While the collection is certainly rare and Karuizawa has become the hottest brand in the Japanese whiskey market, we feel like the $185k valuation from Vint is too high to recommend. If you think Japanese whiskey continue to appreciate at its current pace of 40%+ per year, perhaps it’s worth a punt.

As always, it’s worth zooming the chart out. Whiskey doesn’t always go up and right. We’re not that far off the Karuizawa index’s ATH. We’ve just last year made up losses since 2015.

Karuizawa whiskey improved 4x from 2013 to 2015

That said, if you do think whiskey is likely to appreciate at the same clip over the next few years, it’s an asset class that’s relatively approachable as an individual investor (much like wine, as noted above).

A steal at £2,500

Here are two bottles from the 36 Views of Mount Fuji collection each available for between £2,500 and £3,000 to our UK readers. (No VAT!). If you’re an American looking for something equally visually appealing (and on more of a budget), check out this Akashi – Battle of Divinity three-bottle set.

Wine and Spirits Auctions this Week

There are a few decent auctions this week, but they’re all based in either Hong Kong or mainland China. Because I suspect a very small per cent of our readers either live there or want to fly out to pick up their bottles, probably not worth mentioning.

That said, I did learn about Kweichow Moutai this week, and it uh… looks disgusting.

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Author

Wyatt Cavalier

Wyatt Cavalier

With a background in finance & intelligence analysis, Wyatt has an unhealthy obsession with finding the best blue chip investment opportunities. His previous newsletter, Fractional, resonated deeply with subscribers, bringing actionable insights and unconventional trading strategies. His rare book collection specializes in banned editions. He currently lives in Spain with his beautiful wife, three young boys, and dog Monty.

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