Which Spirit Is More Divine: Château Margaux Rare Wines vs. House of Suntory Aged Whisky

·3 min read

Ordering a classic Bordeaux from Château Margaux signals a number of things to your fellow diners; that you’re a man of taste and sophistication, for example… and perhaps that you favor the old school. For some time, though, Japanese whisky has also carried considerable contemporary cachet. Suntory pioneered the category, and now some of its rarest bottles approach the $1 million mark on the block. So is your happy place drinking a first-growth red during a multicourse feast with fine cheeses and duck confit—or a dram of Yamazaki while gazing at skyline views from a sleek urban rooftop bar?

Château Margaux

House of Suntory

THE BOTTLE YOU WANT

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Grand Vin du Château Margaux. The 2020 will set you back about $620, but you don’t want that. Expect to pay four figures for the best vintages of the past 20 years.

THE BOTTLE YOU WANT

The Yamazaki 25 Years Old Single Malt. Suntory can’t make enough to match demand, so you’re looking at around $20,000 for a bottle.

THE LABEL

Classic. A drawing of the château. Lots of French, which translates to “You’re drinking something important.”

THE LABEL

Modern. No drawing, but one giant Japanese character that means “Congratulations.” Also translates to “You’re drinking something important.”

ORIGIN

The Lestonnac family buys the estate in the 1500s. They expand the property, plant vines and lay the framework for the winery we know today. In 1855 Margaux is ranked as one of the four first-growth wineries (together with Haut-Brion, Latour and Lafite).

Chateau Margaux estate - Credit: AP Images

AP Images

ORIGIN

Shinjiro Torii opens a wine store in Osaka in 1899. Inspired by Scotch whisky, he builds Yamazaki, Japan’s first malt-whisky distillery, in 1923. The brand’s popular single malt launches in 1984.

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery - Credit: Naoya Azuma/AP Images

Naoya Azuma/AP Images

WHAT THEY’RE WORTH NOW

$1B. Corinne Mentzelopoulos inherits Château Margaux in 1980. She is credited with helping steer the winery away from troubled times and into a billion-dollar business.

WHAT THEY’RE WORTH NOW

$20B. You’re drinking Suntory (now Beam Suntory) more often than you realize. The world’s third-largest spirits company, it owns Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Laphroaig and Courvoisier.

RARE FIND

A few of the highly rated 1870 and 1900 vintages can still be tracked down.

RARE FIND

The 2005 Yamazaki 50 Years Old. Only 50 bottles were made, each now worth around $500,000.

RATHER EASIER TO FIND

Pavillon Rouge (about $250 for a recent vintage). It’s Château Margaux’s “second” wine. Still high quality, but less complex.

Château Margaux’s Pavillon Rouge wine - Credit: Courtesy of Château Margaux

Courtesy of Château Margaux

RATHER EASIER TO FIND

The 18 Years Old Single Malt ($1,200) is a decent runner-up. Or, for mixing, the entry-level Toki is perfect for swilling highballs.

Suntory Yamazaki aged 18 years - Credit: Eric Risberg/AP Images

Eric Risberg/AP Images

WHY COLLECTORS ARE HEADED TO THE AIRPORT

A Balthazar (equivalent to 16 bottles) of Château Margaux 2009 was on sale for $195,000 at Dubai Duty Free in 2013. This is a carry-on that deserves its own seat.

WHY COLLECTORS ARE HEADED TO THE AIRPORT

A Yamazaki 55 Years Old sold for about $775,000 last October at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, and one at Istanbul’s airport went for $557,000 in January.

TRAGEDY STRIKES

In 1989 at the Four Seasons, New York, wine merchant William Sokolin broke a bottle of 1787 Château Margaux he claimed had belonged to Thomas Jefferson. He’d wanted to sell it for $500,000-plus; insurance covered the loss at $212,000, still making it one of the most expensive bottles in history.

TRAGEDY STRIKES

No reported fatalities in the $100K+ range. Whisky drinkers seem to have a better grip on things.

 

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