A bottle of Macallan 1926 60 Year Old, with a label designed by the Italian artist Valerio Adami, has become the most expensive bottle of whisky in the world at £2,187,500 ($2,714,250). The previous record of £1.45 million ($1.9 million) was also a bottle of Macallan 1926 60 Year Old, but with the Fine and Rare label. So the world’s most expensive whisky is still a Macallan, but here are six things you might not know about the £2.2 million bottle that just broke its own world record.
Cask 263 Has Held The Record More Times Than Any Other
The first record for the most expensive bottle of whisky in the world was set in 1983, and since then it has been surpassed just 15 times. This is the tenth time a bottle of Macallan whisky has been the most expensive in the world, with Macallan bottles sitting at the top for 24 of 40 years. Of Macallan’s ten records, the five variations of bottles from cask #263 have been responsible for nine separate records.
It Takes Two To Tango
Although the exact number of interested parties before the auction is unknown, the intense bidding for this bottle ultimately came down to just two competitors: one present in the room and the other bidding over the phone. The two collectors drove the price to more than double its low estimate (£750,000 – £1.2 million), and smashed the previous world record for a single bottle of whisky by over £600,000. The bidding process lasted for more than five minutes, with Jonny Fowle, the Global Head of Spirits at Sotheby’s, overseeing from the rostrum when the hammer finally fell to the bidder on the phone.
The Bottle Had Been Reconditioned By Macallan
Prior to the sale Sotheby’s worked with Macallan to replace the capsule and verify the contents via a tiny (1ml) sample. This gives this bottle unprecedented provenance for a vintage release, and makes it unique even within the series. It will be interesting to see whether this verification becomes standard for bottles of this series given the heightened level of confidence it offers to potential buyers.
The Valerio Adami Version Had Never Broken The Million Pound Mark
This is the fourth time the Valerio Adami version has been the most expensive whisky in the world, but it is the first time this particular version has broken the million pound mark. A Valerio Adami bottle first held the record from 1996 to 2001, then in 2018 it broke the record twice, but until 2023 it had never sold for more than £925,000. The two bottles that previously surpassed the million pound threshold were the Fine and Rare edition, which sold for £1.45 million in 2019, and a bottle featuring a unique hand-painted label by Michael Dillon, fetching £1.2 million in 2018.
This Bottle Was Sold In 2020
There were originally 12 hand numbered bottles released with the Valerio Adami label. The £2.2million record is held by bottle number 12, which was last seen at auction in 2020, when it sold at an online specialist auction for £825,000 (not including buyer’s premium). It is interesting to note that the images of this sale are still online and clearly show the capsule with significant wear and splitting around the seal. Perhaps this is the reason the bottle was reconditioned by Macallan?
This Is Not The Oldest Whisky In The World
Macallan also holds the record for the oldest whisky in the world: The Reach, an 81-year-old expression distilled in 1940. Despite the whisky being 20 years older, the most recent sale price for The Reach was £212,500, which goes to show that it is more than simply age that generates value with whisky. It’s not even the earliest whisky in the world, as some pretty incredible vintage releases pre-date it, from the Springbank 1919 to various bottles from the 19th century.
The new record is a really interesting result and an incredible moment for the world of whisky collecting. Jonny Fowle said in an email, “The result we achieved at Sotheby’s for this bottle really has propelled The Macallan 1926 into a new stratosphere.”
The significance of the result is even more fascinating in the context of the wider market, which has been generally weak throughout 2023. Fowle added, “Truly rare items continue to be highly sought after. Dedicated collectors are always looking for a point of differentiation by which their collection can be identified. This is best achieved through unique items.” It will be interesting to see how and if the rest of the market reacts to this new record.
The bottles in this series have dominated records since 1996 and their status as the most expensive whisky in the world have helped set Macallan apart from their competitors. The fact that these bottles not only continue to break the million pound mark, but keep surpassing their own records, are testament to why Macallan is the quintessential “luxury” whisky brand throughout the world.