The Most Pricey Whisky Ever Auctioned
From Glenfiddich to The Macallan, we delve into the realm of the costliest whiskies to ever grace the auction block.
The domain of whiskey collecting is ever-expanding. The record for the priciest whiskey auctioned off over a decade ago rested at less than $100,000. Today, it proudly boasts a staggering $2 million. What’s behind this shift? The whiskey industry is in a state of unprecedented growth. An ever-increasing appetite from the United States, Asia, and the Middle East has elevated the demand for a product with no shortcuts. Crafting a 60-year-old whiskey demands a full six decades of patience. This genuine scarcity has captivated the fascination of connoisseurs and investors alike, who revel in possessing something utterly irreplaceable.
It’s no surprise that The Macallan takes the throne in this realm. This Speyside distillery has long reigned supreme, not only in terms of price but also age statements. Their master whiskey maker, Kirsteen Campbell, introduced an 81-year-old Scotch in 2021, making it the oldest ever. Notably. The legendary #263, a cask that Sotheby’s has aptly described as the “holy grail” of whiskey.
However, while Scotland traditionally held the upper hand in the record books, its Celtic neighbor across the sea has staged an impressive comeback recently.
Let’s explore these and a handful of other bottles that have earned the distinction of being the most costly whiskies ever auctioned.
- Craft Irish Whiskey Co.’s The Emerald Isle Collection – $2 million
On St. Patrick’s Day in 2021, Craft Irish Whiskey Co. shattered all records with the sale of their Emerald Isle Collection, created in collaboration with Fabergé, fetching a whopping $2 million. While technically holding the title of the most expensive whiskey lot ever auctioned, it shares this honor with the exquisitely crafted 18k gold and emerald Fabergé Celtic Egg and a 22k gold Fabergé timepiece encased in rose gold with sapphire crystals, which are included in the set.
Inspired by the seven wonders of Ireland, only seven of these ultra-exclusive seven-piece sets exist, making them highly sought after. However, one must not overlook the whiskey itself. The set contains not one but two bottles of Craft Irish Whiskey Co.’s Emerald Isle. This rare 30-year-old whiskey is the oldest triple-distilled Irish single malt in existence. Following the groundbreaking initial release, an additional four sets were released in the subsequent year, with only one remaining unsold.
- The Macallan Fine and Rare 1926 – $1.9 million
The Macallan Fine and Rare 1926 claimed the title of the most expensive whiskey bottle ever auctioned when it sold for a record-breaking $1.9 million at Sotheby’s in London in 2019. This particular bottle is considered the cornerstone of The Macallan Fine and Rare series, a collection of 57 vintage single-malt whiskies produced by the distillery over eight decades, which remains the most sought-after whiskey collection to this day.
At present, all 14 bottles of The Macallan Fine and Rare 1926 are believed to reside in private collections, although another of these coveted bottles did go under the virtual hammer in February 2021. It didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of its 2019 record, selling for $1.38 million, which took many rare whiskey enthusiasts by surprise.
- The Macallan Michael Dillon 1926 60-Year-Old – $1.53 million
One of the last remaining bottles from cask #263 at The Macallan distillery was chosen to be hand-painted by the Irish artist Michael Dillon. This unique bottle was unveiled in 1999 and features a detailed depiction of The Macallan Speyside estate’s cherished Easter Elchies House.
The bottle remained unseen since its initial purchase 19 years earlier at the prestigious London department store Fortnum & Mason until it went under the hammer at Christie’s in London in November 2018. It became the first whiskey to surpass the £1 million mark at auction, selling for £1.2 million (approximately $1.53 million). It now stands as the second most expensive individual whiskey bottle ever auctioned.
- Glenfiddich, The 1950s Collection – $1.4 million
Glenfiddich is no stranger to commanding high auction prices. Once, it was the proud owner of the most expensive whiskey bottle sold at auction when a Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve bottle fetched $94,000 in 2012. The whiskey-collecting landscape has evolved significantly since then, to the point where this exceptional collection of four single malts doesn’t even break into the top three.
Nonetheless, the distillery outdid itself with the sale of four exceptionally aged whiskeys, selling for just shy of $1.4 million at the Distillers’ One of One auction in 2021. Originally estimated at a modest $290,000, the price for the four bottles soared to record levels, thanks to the determined bidding of two individuals over a tense half-hour.
The winner received four expressions from 1955, 1957, 1958, and 1959, representing the final casks from Glenfiddich’s 1950 stocks. The decanters were hand-blown by Baccarat, featuring a 24-carat gold neck, and encased in a high-tech cabinet designed and crafted by NEJ Stevenson. The cabinet is equipped with a high-precision thermometer and hygrometer, ensuring meticulous control of environmental conditions. Innovative mechanisms prevent the cork from drying out, enabling the owner to preserve the whiskey for generations.
- The Macallan The Intrepid – $1.38 million
Earlier this year, The Macallan secured its place in yet another record book, this time for creating the largest whiskey bottle ever released: The Intrepid. Towering at 5 feet 11 inches, this bottle dwarfs conventional containers and holds approximately 311 liters of whiskey, equivalent to 444 regular-sized bottles.
This colossal bottle sold for £1.1 million ($1.375 million) at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh and contains whiskey from two American oak hogshead casks, each matured for 32 years. The bottle itself pays homage to 11 of the world’s most renowned explorers, with each of their visages immortalized on its label.
- The Dalmore Decades Collection No.6 – $1.24 million
On October 8, 2021, The Dalmore Decades No.6 Collection set a new record as the most valuable whiskey auction lot ever sold by Sotheby’s in Asia. It was acquired by a private collector for $1.24 million. This is the sole Scotch whiskey on our list of the most expensive whiskeys auctioned that wasn’t bottled by the renowned Macallan.
The Decades No.6 Collection brings together a unique selection of six milestone releases from 1951, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1995, and 2000, chosen by The Dalmore’s legendary master distiller, Richard Paterson. This includes notable bottlings that mark key moments in the 180-year history of the Scottish distillery, such as the first whiskey distilled in the new millennium, as well as the coveted Dalmore 60-Year-Old, distilled from the last two remaining casks from the era of the Mackenzie family, who owned The Dalmore distillery from 1867 to 1960.
The Dalmore has committed to donating 15% of the proceeds, totaling £100,000, to the V&A Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum.
- Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 60 Years-Old – $1.07 million
The second release of 12 bottles of The Macallan 60-Year-Old from that elusive cask took place in 1993. This time, another renowned pop artist, Italian painter Valerio Adami, was tasked with designing the label. Adami’s label features a nude figure seemingly admiring the same bottle of The Macallan 1926.
Out of the 12 bottles produced, it’s rumored that one was lost in a Japanese earthquake, making it even rarer and, subsequently, more sought after. When a bottle was auctioned online in February 2020, it drew bids from 1,642 participants in 56 countries worldwide, including Australia, Singapore, and the UK. The winning bidder said to be a European, paid £825,000 (approximately $1.07 million), elevating it to one of the most expensive whiskey bottles ever sold at auction.
- The Macallan Peter Blake 1926 60-Year-Old – $1.04 million
This marks the first whiskey from The Macallan’s famed cask #263 on our list, and a bit of history is in order. After the sherry-seasoned cask was filled in 1926, it remained untouched in the Speyside distillery for six decades until 1986, when its precious contents were divided into a mere 40 bottles. Twenty-four of these received labels designed by celebrated artists, one bottle was commissioned for a unique paint job, while two were auctioned in unadorned bottles. The remaining 14 were intended to be offered as part of Macallan’s vintage release program, but more on that later.
The first release of 12 bottles took place in 1993, and to accentuate the exclusivity of this single malt, The Macallan joined forces with pop artist Sir Peter Blake, best known for designing the album cover of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” This was the initial step in a series of three artistic collaborations that significantly boosted the Macallan 1926 60-year-old auction prices.
In May 2018, one of the 12 The Macallan Peter Blake 1926 60-Year-Old bottles came up for auction at Bonhams in Hong Kong, fetching £751,703 (approximately $1.04 million