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Bonhams sets new world record for most expensive whisky

Bonhams has set a new world record for the most expensive single bottle of whisky ever sold at auction with a 1926 Macallan bearing a Valerio Adami label selling for a total of HK$8.6 million (US$1.1 million), almost double its high estimate, last Friday.

Daniel Lam, Head of Fine Wine and Whisky at Bonhams Asia, posing on the auction floor immediately after the Peter Blake label was sold for HK$6.5 million (excluding premiums), surpassing its HK$4.5 million high estimate.

Bonhams’ Fine and Rare Wine and Whisky auction in Hong Kong last Friday was nothing short of auction room drama. In a matter of hours, the auction house outdid itself with records after records, set by first a Karuizawa whisky, then the 1926 Macallan Peter Blake label before culminating with the 1926 Macallan Valerio Adami label, which was sold for a staggering HK$8.6 million.

The sale made history by setting new world auction records for any whisky sold at auction with the sale of two of the rarest vintage Macallan bottles – The Macallan Peter Blake 1926 60 Year Old and The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 60 Year Old.

Only 24 bottles–12 of the Blake label and 12 of the Adami label – were ever produced. They were originally produced as corporate gifts in specially commissioned cabinets or Tantaluses, based on the traditional ‘Brass and Glass’ distillery spirit safe.

The Macallan Peter Blake 1926 60 Year Old went under the hammer first for a final price of HK$7,962,500 (US$1,014,422 / £751,703) to a phone bidder.

Just three hours after the record was set, The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 60 Year Old smashed it and set a new world record for HK$8,636,250 (US$1,100,197 / £814,081) to a bidder in the room, surpassing the original estimate of HK$3.6 million to HK$4.5 million.

“These two bottles are the most significant whiskies ever produced in the 20th century and truly presented a once-in-a-generation opportunity for collectors to acquire the Holy Grail of Macallan,” commented Daniel Lam, Head of Fine Wine and Whisky, Bonhams Asia, from the auction floor.

“Active bidding came in from around the world but we saw new bidders from Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia reflecting the growing appetite and appreciation for whisky among Asian collectors and further reinforcing Bonhams market leadership in Hong Kong in the field of Whisky.”

The auction room erupted into applause when the 1926 Macallan Peter Blake label went to a phone bidder for HK$6.5 million (excluding premiums) after a ferocious bidding war with a collector in the room.

In addition to the two super lots, impressive prices were also achieved throughout the auction including the oldest expression of Karuizawa 1960 52 year old-The Dragon, one of 41 bottles, which went for HK$2.45 million (US$312,130 / £231,035) (lot 468) against an estimate of HK$1.5 million to HK$1.8 million, setting a new record for a single bottle of Japanese whisky.

The Hong Kong sale concluded with a robust total in excess of HK$46.6 million (US$5,938,674 / £4,406,694) with close to 91% sold by lot and 95% sold by value of the 645 lots. All top lots sold for two or three times their estimates, indicating a positive sign for market demand among private collectors in Hong Kong and Asia.

The sale of the two Macallan bottles’ sale followed a similar pair sold at Dubai’s airport retailer Le Clos for US$600,000 each, setting a benchmark for the whisky. The last known sale of the bottle was in 2007 where a bottle of the Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 60 year old sold for US$75,000 at Christie’s.

The previous auction record for any single malt whisky was last seen in 2014 in Hong Kong with the sale of the Macallan 6-litre “M” Decanter by Lalique, which fetched HK$4.9 million, at Sotheby’s.

Asked by dbHK on the auction floor, if in the future there would be more 1926 Macallans surfacing at auctions, Lam did not rule out the possibility but stated the chances of having another pair is rare.

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