Rare Scotch whisky becomes world's most expensive bottle at £2.1 million

Rare Scotch whisky becomes world's most expensive bottle at £2.1 million

A rare Scotch whisky has become the world's most expensive bottle after it sold for £2.1 million.

The Macallan 1926 single malt is one of the world's most sought-after bottles of Scotch whisky. A similar bottle was sold in 2019 for £1.5m.

It was sold by Sotheby's for $2.7m (£2.1m), more than double its estimated price, breaking the record for the most expensive wine or spirit sold at auction.

After being aged in sherry casks for six decades, just 40 bottles of The Macallan 1926 were bottled in 1986, representing the oldest Macallan whisky ever produced at that time.

‘This record-breaking result for The Macallan 1926 is nothing short of momentous for the whisky industry as a whole,’ said Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s global head of spirits.

‘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.’

Sotheby’s worked with The Macallan to recondition and authenticate this bottle, the first time this has ever been done for a 1926. 

As part of the process The Macallan Master Whisky Maker undertook a nosing of the whisky. 

‘Being involved in the sensory analysis of this incomparable whisky was an incredible privilege,’ said Kirsteen Campbell.

‘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’

Credit: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

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 bottle sold is now the foundation for all other 1926 bottles that may undergo testing in the future.

Of the 40 bottles drawn in 1986, 14 were decorated with the iconic Fine and Rare labels. Two bottles were released with no labels at all. 

Of these two, one was hand painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon - when sold in 2018, it became the first bottle of whisky to surpass £1 million.

In 1986 twelve were labelled by Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake, whose work saw the most notable events from this year in the roaring 20s depicted in black and white sketches and photography. 

In 1993, a further 12 bottles had their labels designed by Valerio Adami. The Italian artist was recommended to The Macallan by their Italian agent, Armando Giovinetti. 

Limiting his palette to black and white for the label, Adami produced a design that has since become iconic in the world of whisky.

The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 is now the first bottle in history to exceed £2 million.

It is not known how many of the 12 bottles of The Macallan Adami 1926 still exist.

One is said to have been destroyed in an earthquake in Japan in 2011, and it is believed at least one other has been opened and consumed.

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