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Most expensive whiskies ever sold

10 Most Expensive Whiskies Ever Sold at Auction


The most expensive whiskies in the world aren’t for drinking, but they sure fetch a lot of money at auction thanks to their rarity. Whether it be Scotch releases from The Macallan or rare and aged drams from Japanese whisky icons such as Yamazaki, the high-end whisky market is growing in value by the day. This is great news for investors, but not ideal for drinkers. Call it a hunch, but most of these ultra-rare bottles are likely hiding in a freeport next to a few Mark Rothko’s or in the vault of a billionaire’s mansion. To break the seal is to compromise the spirit’s value, and therein lies the paradox: to drink or not to drink?

Most Expensive Whiskies Ever Sold at a Glance

The most expensive whiskies in the world include the following bottles:

  • Most expensive whisky ever sold: The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old Valerio Adami – $2.74m
  • Most expensive Japanese whisky: The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old – $793,000

Now you’ve seen the highlights, let’s check out the complete list.

RELATEDThese are the best Australian whiskies we’ve ever tasted.

The macallan 1926 60 year old valerio adami
The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old Valerio Adami | Image: Sotheby’s

1. The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old Valerio Adami – $2.74m

Price: £2,187,500 (approx. USD$2.74m)
Date sold: November 19, 2023

The Macallan 1926 60-year-old is the most sought-after bottle of wine or spirit on the planet with 40 bottles ever produced and auction prices now well into the millions. Bottles were offered to the brand’s top clients in 1986 and sported several different labels: Fine & Rare (14 bottles), Sir Peter Blake (12 bottles), No Label (1 bottle), Michael Dillon (1 bottle), and Valerio Adami (12 bottles) as we see here.

This particular bottle (#12 of 12), however, is the first to have undergone reconditioning by The Macallan Distillery. This process involves “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,” according to the listing at Sotheby’s. To recondition the capsule, a sample of the old capsule was used as a material match and then recreated by a producer in Austria to identically match.

Brand: The Macallan
Bottling:
1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare
Age:
60-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Scotland
Region:
Speyside

1 the macallan 1926 60 year old fine and rare
The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare | Image: Sotheby’s

2. The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare – $1.82m

Price: £1,452,000 (approx. USD$1.82m)
Date sold: 24 October 2019

Long-running distillery The Macallan is the prevailing champion when it comes to record-breaking bottles of expensive whisky. This coveted 60-year-old statement was actually distilled over 90 years ago and it’s amongst the 14 bottles to receive the Fine and Rare label. It was expected to fetch somewhere between £350,000 and £450,000 at auction in 2019 but secured a whopping £1,452,000 instead (which roughly equated to about US$1.9 million at the time).

“This is the most iconic of all bottles of Scotch whisky,” Sotheby’s wrote about the release. “The essential centrepiece of any great collection and, for whoever opens the bottle and enjoys it with their friends, perhaps savouring it over time, with the potential to have over forty-five 15ml pours, this bottle provides the ultimate opportunity to taste the “holy grail” of all whiskies – a once in a lifetime experience.”

To give you an idea of just how insane collecting has become in recent years, a previous 60-year-old Macallan became the world’s most expensive whisky back in 1987 when it sold for….wait for it…£5,000. The value of this ultra-rare spirit has clearly and steadily increased since, which can only make one wonder what it will sell for 10 or 20 years from now. It’s something to sip on, for sure.

Brand: The Macallan
Bottling:
1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare
Age:
60-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Scotland
Region:
Speyside

Listed at Sotheby’s

2 the macallan 1926 60 year old michael dillon
The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Michael Dillon | Image: Christie’s

3. The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Michael Dillon – $1.50m

Price: £1,200,000 (approx. USD$1.50m)
Date sold: 28 November-29 November 2018

A year before its brethren broke auction records in 2019, this 60-year-old Macallan did the very same thing. It was likewise bottled from cask 263 after spending six decades in ex-sherry casks. Providing further distinction is the bottle’s label design, courtesy of Irish artist Michael Dillon. Best known for his historical decorations, Dillon hand-painted the Easter Elchies House of The Macallan and the Scottish Highlands on the label in immaculate detail. Perhaps most remarkable of all, despite featuring a depiction of Easter Elchies House, Macallan’s spiritual home, the bottle is so rare that even the distillery itself was unaware of its existence until it was offered at auction.

Brand: The Macallan
Bottling:
1926 60-Year-Old Michael Dillon
Age:
60-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Scotland
Region:
Speyside

Listed at Christie’s

3 the macallan 1926 60 year old fine and rare
The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare | Image: Whisky Auctioneer

4. The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare – $1.25m

Price: £1,000,000 (approx. USD$1.25m)
Date sold: April 2020

They don’t call The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old the “holy grail of whiskies” for nothing. Continuing a trend, this single malt came out of the same cask as its record-breaking peers and fetched a cool £1,000,000 at auction (overcoming a cyberattack in the process). Behold the rich, dark colour of the ancient liquid inside and then wipe that bit of drool off the side of your mouth.

Brand: The Macallan
Bottling:
1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare
Age:
60-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Scotland
Region:
Speyside

Listed at Whisky Auctioneer

5 the macallan 1926 60 year old valerio adami
The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Valerio Adami | Image: Bonham’s

5. The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Valerio Adami – $1.10m

Price: HK$8,636,250 (approx. USD$1.10m)
Date sold: 18 May 2018

Months before selling the fourth most expensive whisky in the world, Bonhams auctioned off the fifth most expensive whisky. As you might have guessed, it’s another “holy grail” bottle of The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old, with Valerio Adami’s unmistakable artwork on the label. The sale went down in Hong Kong and fetched the equivalent of US$1,100,175.

Brand: The Macallan
Bottling:
1926 60-Year-Old Valerio Adami
Age:
60-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Scotland
Region:
Speyside

Listed at Bonhams

4 the macallan 1926 60 year old valerio adami
The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Valerio Adami | Image: Bonham’s

6. The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Valerio Adami – $1.06m

Price: £848,750 (approx. USD$1.06m)
Date sold: 3 Oct 2018

The fourth most expensive whisky in the world should come as no surprise if you’ve been reading this list in order. This particular bottle of The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old was 1 of 12 to feature an incredible label design by Italian painter Valerio Adami. It was sold by the distillery through the auction house Bonhams.

Brand: The Macallan
Bottling:
1926 60-Year-Old Valerio Adami
Age:
60-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Scotland
Region:
Speyside

Listed at Bonhams

The macallan 1926 60 year old peter blake
The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Peter Blake | Image: Sotheby’s

7. The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Peter Blake – $1.02m

Price: HK$7,962,500 (approx. USD$1.02m)
Date sold: 18 May 2018

Bonhams’ 2018 Fine & Rare Wine and Whisky Auction saw the sale of not one, but two record-breaking bottles of expensive whisky. The second was this 60-Year-Old Macallan with limited edition artwork from Sir Peter Blake. A true living legend, Blake once famously designed the cover of The Beatles’ 1967 masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it? His label design takes a similar approach by mashing up all sorts of characters and details.

Brand: The Macallan
Bottling:
1926 60-Year-Old Peter Blake
Age:
60-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Scotland
Region:
Speyside

Listed at Bonhams

7 the yamazaki 55 year old
The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old | Image: Bonhams

8. The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old – $793,000

Price: HK$6,200,000 (approx. USD$793,000)
Date sold: 21 Aug 2020

At long last, we get to an outrageously expensive whisky not named The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old. Matured in a combination of oak casks and distiled to 46% ABV, the mighty Yamazaki 55-Year-Old is as legendary as a Japanese single malt can get. Perched beyond its gold-dusted bottle is an exquisite spirit of deep amber colour and brilliant taste. Some folks have actually tried this rare beast and they describe a powerful nose of sandalwood and fruit, a smooth but complex flavour profile, and a sweet aftertaste.

Brand: Yamazaki
Age:
55-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Japan
Region:
Osaka Prefecture

8 the macallan 1926 60 year old peter blake
The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Peter Blake | Image: Bonhams

9. The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Peter Blake – $770,000

Price: £615,062 (approx. USD$770,000)
Date sold: 21 Aug 2020

The Macallan’s predominance continues with this uber-expensive single malt, which was bottle number 7 out of 12 to feature label artwork from Sir Peter Blake. It was described by the auction house as being “almost inconceivably smooth with a luscious hint of dry-sweetness in the malt.”

Brand: The Macallan
Bottling:
1926 60-Year-Old Peter Blake
Age:
60-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Scotland
Region:
Speyside

Listed at Bonhams

9 the yamazaki 55 year old
The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old | Image: Sotheby’s

10. The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old – $600,000

Price: USD$600,000
Date sold: 17 June 2022

Yamazaki’s ultra-luxurious whisky was priced around AU$90,000 and limited to just 200 bottles when it hit the marketplace back in 2020. On the auction block, bottles such as this one have fetched far greater numbers. Someone out there may very well be smacking themselves over the decision to crack theirs open!

Brand: Yamazaki
Age:
55-Year-Old
Country of Origin:
Japan
Region:
Osaka Prefecture

Listed at Sotheby’s

Yamazaki 55y scene bottle amber
Yamazaki 55-Year-Old | Image: House of Suntory

Why is Whisky So Expensive?

As one of the most universally loved creations in the world, whisky has amassed the kind of following that few other man-made inventions could rival. A statement of status, along with an ode to cultural heritage, whisky, particularly from Scotland, can fetch a pretty penny, and looking at the amount of time and effort involved in creating it, it’s not hard to see why. As a general rule, the reason that most whisky is expensive is down to a few key elements:

  • Brand – In the whisky world, brand heritage goes a long way. For a number of fans, the label on the bottle is as important as the elixir that lies within, as it marks a significant step in the iconic industry’s next chapter. As this list shows, brands like The Macallan and Yamazaki have created a unique and dedicated fanbase, eager to pick up any bottle.
  • Age – Somewhat unsurprisingly, most of the releases on this list of the world’s most expensive whiskies are well over 50 years of age. This plays a significant role in a bottle’s valuation, as it the number of releases still available on the market reduces as things get older. Similarly, any bottle that has sat in the maturation cask for over 50 years has likely seen a few different distillers pass through the ranks, so it’s quite unusual that it would be left so long without being bottled and released.
  • Rarity – Finally a whisky’s rarity also factors into its price. Like anything in business, supply and demand dictates that when a product is well-loved and hard to get, prices must increase. Therefore, it’s safe to say that rare bottlings, with significant age and released by an icon like The Macallan are likely to fetch an enormous figure if and when they finally go to auction.
6 house of suntory yamazaki 55
Yamazaki 55-Year-Old | Image: House of Suntory

Whisky as an Investment

More recently, the whisky market has seen a rapid changing of the guard. Where expensive bottlings were previously seen as special occasion offerings, bought by wealthy elites to be opened when a milestone achievement rolled around, increasingly, bottlings are being snapped up by savvy market analysts looking for an investment opportunity. Put simply, collectible whiskies are those with a value that is expected to rise over time and have become more lucrative to interested parties over the past decade or so.

According to ReserveBar, selling spirits through e-commerce in wine and spirits was expected to reach USD$25 billion in sales by 2025, however, the global pandemic accelerated this trend. With more people drinking at home, the number of sales going through online channels grew significantly. Still, the overwhelming majority of rare bottlings have made theirs off the platform and into the hands of traditional auction houses such as Bonhams and Sotheby’s.

In an interview with Forbes, Worldwide Head at Sotheby’s Wine, Jamie Ritchie revealed that rare spirits had grown from just one per cent of the auction house’s sales in 2016 to 19 per cent in 2020, spurred by the ongoing pandemic-related economic concerns. As the world struggled with financial stability, some investors looked to digital currencies such as Bitcoin to manage their wealth, while more traditional investors moved back toward tangible assets as a means of protecting their financial status.

“At Sotheby’s, we showcase the world’s greatest collections of wines and spirits in unique and innovative ways to maximize price,” Ritchie told the publication. “In 2019, we took individual bottles valued at $4-6 million and sold it as a collection for $10 million. We also achieved the highest price for any wine or spirit, which was $1.9 million for the Macallan 60-year-old Fine and Rare.”

It’s a trend that is quickly gathering pace, with whisky investment becoming a more common practice, particularly as a spate of Asian investors recognise the strength of the market. Recently, an ultra-rare set of Black Bowmore whiskies sold through Sotheby’s Hong Kong’s Wine & Spirit Sale Series netted a whopping USD$563,00 (AUD$750,000), while a whisky collector in Asia dropped a staggering £18 million (AUD$28 million) on a 1975 cask of rare Ardberg Scotch. Here in Australia, a Perth-based whisky fan sold off a history-making 9,070 bottles from his private collection, generating a whopping AUD$6.4 million.

Alternatives to Most Expensive Whiskies Ever Sold

If you’re not quite enough zeroes in the bank account to afford one of The Macallan’s 1926 cask releases? The simple fact is that not all Scotch, bourbon or Australian whisky needs to be expensive to be quality. Check out some of our other (more budget-friendly) round-ups on the golden elixir below and get your collection brewing. Who knows? You might end u with a treasure trove of your own in a few decades.

More Historic Whisky Sales

Whisky Types

Whisky by Region

General FAQ

What is the most expensive whisky ever sold at auction?

The most expensive whisky sold at auction to date was a bottle of The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare, which fetched £1,452,000 in 2019.

What is the most expensive Scotch ever sold at auction?

In 2019, The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Fine and Rare became the most expensive whisky ever sold at auction when it fetched £1,452,000.

What is the most expensive Japanese Whisky ever sold at auction?

The most expensive Japanese whisky ever sold at auction is the The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old, which went for HK$6,200,000 in 2020.