Special Report

Record-Shattering $3 Million Bid Makes This the World's Most Expensive Whisky

Tristan Fewings / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment

A 750 ml bottle of single-malt Scotch whisky sold at auction at Sotheby’s in London on Nov. 18 for almost $3 million – $2,714,250 (or £2,187,500), to be precise. According to a statement issued by the noted auctioneers, this represents “a new record for any bottle of spirit or wine [ever] sold at auction.”

Sotheby’s had predicted that it would go for as much as $1.4 million, so the final sales price was a surprise all around. (If even that would have been a little pricey for you, these were the best whiskeys under $50 in 2022.)

The whisky in question was The Macallan 1926, from one of Scotland’s most esteemed distilleries. The whisky had aged in sherry casks for 60 years before being bottled, making it the distillery’s oldest offering at the time. The auction house’s global head of spirits, Jonny Fowle, sampled “a tiny drop,” and told Agence France-Presse that it was “very rich” and “incredible.”

Only 40 bottles of The Macallan 1926, considered one of the world’s rarest and most sought-after whiskies, were released – and they were never available to the public, but were reserved for the distillery’s best customers.

If what’s inside the bottles is something special, so are the bottles themselves. Fourteen were designated Fine and Rare, a dozen carried labels by British artist Peter Blake, one was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon, one bore no label at all, and 12 had labels designed by the Italian artist Valerio Adami. It was one of these that broke the auction sales record.

Before the whisky hit the auction block, representatives of The Macallan replaced the cork and capsule, reglued the edges of the label, and took a 1 ml (0.03 ounce) sample to compare against whisky from another bottle of the 1926 to assure authenticity.

The previous record for a bottle or alcohol of any kind sold at auction was also held by The Macallan 1926 – one of the Fine & Rare editions, which went for $1.9 million in 2019. (A considerably less expensive bottling from The Macallan qualifies as one of the 20 most popular whiskey brands in America.)

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