10 of the most expensive whiskeys in the world
What’s the most you’d splash out on a good whisk(e)y? It seems that, for some, a taste of the finer things in life is worth more than the average person earns in a lifetime.
These collector’s items push the limits of just how much is too much. From sublimely designed sets to ridiculously sized bottles, the prices some of these spirits go for are not for the faint of heart. Money can’t buy taste, but it can buy some outrageous booze.
It may seem like pocket change compared to the entries further down the list, but this is a record holder nonetheless. Going for more than double what the same whisky sold in a recent auction at Bonhams in Hong Kong, the septuagenarian Scotch is a rare breed. Sold alongside an NFT entitled “Year of the Dram 1948” (the year the whisky was made), the drink itself has been described as among “the most historically significant whiskies ever produced”.
55 year old Yamazaki – £605,244
A bit of a step up, this set a new world record for a single bottle of Japanese whisky. Going for more than ten times the pre-sale estimate, this is one of just 100 bottles of the single-malt released. The 46% ABV spirit within owes its reddish amber hue to the Mizunara oak casks and white oak casks it was aged in at different stages in its rather long life.
Hanyu Ichiro’s Card Series – £796,220
This is not a single bottle, but rather a set of 54 – which almost makes the price seem reasonable relative to others on this list. Bottled from a single cask from 1985 to 2014, only four complete sets of the Japanese whisky are believed to exist in the world. A set sold at Bonhams in Hong Kong in 2015 set the record for a Japanese whisky set before a 2019 sale of a full set went for almost double the price. If you play your cards right, a full set could well be a very rewarding investment opportunity.
Valerio Adami 1926 Macallan – £825,000
Not to spoil the rest of the list, but this will definitely not be the last appearance of the 1926 Macallan from Cask #263. The first whisky to break the US$1million mark on an online auction, it was the label, by Italian painter Valerio Adami, that really sold it. One of just 12 that Adami contributed, it blurs the line between art and drinks.
Macallan 1988 cask – £1million
Bottles are all well and good, but real whisky lovers would go crazy for a cask. Despite being from a name as prestigious as Macallan, the owner who purchased it three decades ago for £5,000 forgot about it. Auctioned via Whisky Hammer, a buyer from the US snapped up the barrel (and its contents) for seven-figures, including the buyer’s premium earlier this year. There are about 534 70cl bottles-worth of booze contained within.
The Intrepid – £1.1million
If you’re going to spend the sort of money that could get you a moderately-sized flat in Earl’s Court on a bottle of whisky, go big or go home. The measurements surrounding the bottle itself are intimidating: taller than the average Scottish person, and with enough “wee” drams within to last you for decades, this Goliath is to be exhibited, rather than emptied – as tempting as the 1989 Macallan within might be.
Michael Dillon 1926 Macallan – £1.2million
One of the rarest and most beautiful bottles in the world – Irish artist Michael Dillon hand-painted the label, setting it apart from the Adami label on this list. Bottled in 1986, it sold at Christie’s in 2018 for a shatteringly-high £1.2million/US$1.5million. Of course, the whisky within is also pretty special too, having been aged for 60 years in oak.
Fine and Rare 1926 Macallan – £1.5million
The third and final appearance of Cask #263 on this list – this example from the so-called “Fine and Rare” series is not the rarest iteration from the cask (having been one of 14 bottles), but it is the most expensive of them all. Sold at Sotheby’s in 2019, it marks the culmination of decades of Macallans ricocheting between the world’s wealthiest whisky collectors. Precisely where this most sought-after of bottles will go to, and how much for, next remains to be seen.
The Emerald Isle Collection – £1.6million
How do you make a whisky (or “whiskey”, in this case) worth US$2million? Chuck a Fabergé egg in with it, of course. The 18k gold egg isn’t the only treasure tucked within the walnut box: two bottles of rare 30 year old whiskey, a hip flask (containing more whiskey), a bespoke timepiece, a humidor with two Cohiba Siglo VI Grand Reserve cigars, a gold-plated cigar cutter, obsidian whiskey stones, a carafe filled with Irish spring water (from the whiskey’s region) and a gold-plated pipette to drop it with. As obscene as it might appear, proceeds from sale of the seven sets created are raising funds for the Correa Family Foundation.
Isabella’s Islay Original – £4.8million
“It’s what inside that counts” doesn’t necessarily apply when we’re talking about a whisky in this price bracket. You can make most things expensive if you chuck glitter at them (and by “glitter”, I mean 5,000 diamonds, 250 rubies and the equivalent of two bars of white gold). Information about the whisky within what must be the world’s heaviest decanter is somewhat elusive – though it is said to have aromas of “hot-buttered toast and woodsmoke”. Once you’ve bought one it’s doubtful whether you’ll have enough money left to refill it.