The Macallan 1926 becomes most expensive bottle of whisky sold at auction

The Macallan 1926 becomes most expensive bottle of whisky sold at auction

The bottle sold with Sotheby's for £2.1 million 

News | 20 Nov 2023

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A bottle of The Macallan 1926 featuring an incredibly rare Valerio Adami label has set a new record for the most expensive bottle of any spirit or wine sold at auction.


Just 40 bottles of The Macallan 1926 were bottled in 1986 after six decades of maturation in the distillery's signature sherry casks. Their rarity has seen them fetch some remarkable prices at auction, with the record broken three times in 2018 and 2019 alone by three variations (Sir Peter Blake, Michael Dillion, and Fine & Rare).


Of the 40 bottles of 1926 that were drawn in 1986, just 12 featured labels designed by Valerio Adami, which were added to the bottles in 1993. Two bore labels with designs by Irish artist Michael Blake (it became the first bottle of whisky to exceed £1 million at auction when it sold in 2018) and a further 12 featured labels by pop artist Sir Peter Blake.


The 1926 Valerio Adami sold with Sotheby's on Saturday for £2,187,500 (US$2,714,250), almost three times hte pre-sale low estimate and far outstripping the previous record of £1.5 million (US$1.9 million) achieved by Sotheby's for the Fine & Rare version in 2019.


Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s global head of spirits, said: “This record-breaking result for The Macallan 1926 is nothing short of momentous for the whisky industry as a whole. When we first set the record for the Fine & Rare back in 2019 it was a defining moment not just for Sotheby’s, but for me personally.


“This new record result for The Macallan Adami feels all the more emotional for me, having worked directly with the consignor and distillery to recondition, nose and authenticate this bottle, then finish this journey on the rostrum fielding bids in the room and on the phone. Bringing down the hammer for a new whisky world record is a feeling I’ll never forget.” 

The Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami. Credit: Sotheby's

For the first time with a 1926 bottling, Sotheby's worked directly with The Macallan to authenticate the expression. As part of this process, The Macallan master whisky maker Kirsteen Campbell undertook a nosing of the whisky.


She said: “The whisky had an incredible depth of character – rich dark fruits, black cherry compote alongside sticky dates, followed by intense sweet antique oak, which is for me a recognisable note of such aged Macallan. Dark chocolate, treacle, ginger… the notes go on and on. It was a very special moment to experience the opening of this iconic 60 Years Old single malt, first bottled 37 years ago, and I hope the new custodian will enjoy the same privilege.”


The reconditioning process involved replacing both the capsule and the cork, applying new glue to the corners of the bottle labels, and taking a 1ml liquid sample to test against another 1926 bottle at the Edrington offices in Glasgow. The results of this sampling will now offer a foundation for any other 1926 bottlings that undergo testing in future.


The sale was part of Sotheby's 'Weekend of Whisky', a two-day event which also established an auction record for a collection of Japanese whisky when Kodawari: The Greatest Japanese Whisky Collection, which fetched £1.8 million (US$2.2 million). The collection mainly comprised single cask releases from the closed Karuizawa distillery, headlined by a 52-year-old bottle of Karuizawa 1960. 

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