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Sotheby’s to sell world’s most valuable and ‘desirable’ whisky

Sotheby’s is offering “the world’s most valuable whisky”, a very rare bottle of The Macallan 1926, a bottle of which has previously sold for £1.5million. 

Only forty bottles of The Macallan Adami 1926 – the oldest Macallan vintage ever produced – were bottled in 1986, and these were offered to the whisky brand’s top client rather than being made available to purchase. Although rare for any of these bottles to come to auction, the times they have done have resulted in extraordinary results – with three different variations of the bottles breaking auction records on three different occasions.

This is the first time a bottle of the whisky has come to market since the world record price was achieved in 2019, and will go under the hammer in London on 18 November, with a pre-sale estimate of £750,000 – £1.2 million. Advance bidding will open on 1 November.

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s global head of spirits, called The Macallan 1926 “the one whisky that every auctioneer wants to sell and every collector wants to own”, saying he was extremely excited to bring a bottle to a Sotheby’s auction for the first time since the auction house set the record for this vintage four years ago.

The whisky has been aged in sherry casks for six decades, but this is the first bottle to have undergone reconditioning by The Macallan Distillery ahead of being presented at auction. This process involved replacing both the capsule ( a swatch of which was taken to recreate an identical replacement made by the Austrian producer) 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. This will provide a “foundation” for all subsequent 1926 bottles that may undergo testing in the future, Sotheby’s said.

“Working alongside our friends at The Macallan Distillery to recondition and perform clinical analysis on this bottle and liquid has elevated it to an unparalleled status.” Fowle said. “Now, as the bedrock for all Macallan 1926 authenticity and with its condition approved by master distiller Kirsten Campbell, this must surely be the most desirable bottle of whisky ever to come to the market.”

Unique labels

The bottle is one of 12 bottles whose labels were designed by Italian painter Valerio Adami in 1993. The artist is renowned for his graphic style of painting, using blocks of flat colour bordered with pronounced black lines. Limiting his palette to black and white for the label design, Adami produced a design that has since become “iconic in the world of whisky”, Sotheby’s said.

Sadly, one of the Adami-labelled bottles is believed to have been destroyed during a Japanese earthquake in 2011.

Fourteen 14 were decorated with the iconic ‘Fine and Rare’ labels, including the record-breaking bottle sold by Sotheby’s in 2019. Two bottles were released with no labels, one of which was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon with an image of Macallan’s Easter Elchies House. This bottle sold in 2018, becoming the first bottle of whisky to pass the £1 million mark. The remaining unlabelled bottle is unaccounted for.

A further twelve bottles were labelled in 1986 by Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake, immortalising the notable events of the ‘roaring 20s’ in black and white sketches and photography.

At least one of the 40 bottles is thought to have been opened and consumed, verified by images taken in Japan.


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