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£2 million Macallan whisky breaks sales record

The Macallan ‘Adami’ 1926 has set a new world record and become the most expensive whisky sold at auction, selling for more than a million pounds above the pre-sale estimate. 

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s global head of spirits, unveils the bottle of The Macallan 1926, the world’s most expensive whisky (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

The whisky, one of only forty bottles produced by the distillery and bottled in 1986, sold for £2.2 million at Sotheby’s on 18 November, well in excess of its £750,000 – £1.2 million estimate.

The ultra-rare bottles were originally only offered to the whisky brand’s top clients, rather the general public, but three different variations of the bottles have come to auction in recent years and broken world auction records.

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Global Head of Spirits, said the record-breaking result was “nothing short of momentous for the whisky industry as a whole”, having previously described the The Macallan 1926 as “the one whisky that every auctioneer wants to sell and every collector wants to own”.


Although the whisky has been aged in sherry casks for six decades, 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.

The reconditioning and clinical analysis on this bottle and liquid has elevated it “to an unparalleled status”, Fowle said, noting that it would become “the bedrock for all Macallan 1926 authenticity”.

Art labels

Of the 40 bottles drawn in 1986, 14 were decorated with the iconic Fine and Rare labels, including a bottle that was sold by Sotheby’s in 2019 for £1.5 million.  Two bottles were released with no labels at all, alongside one hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon that includes an image of Macallan’s Easter Elchies House. This latter bottle sold in 2018, becoming the first bottle of whisky to surpass £1 million. The remaining unlabelled bottle is unaccounted for.

Of the remaining bottles, twelve were labelled by pop artist Sir Peter Blake, while a further 12 bottles had their labels designed by Italian painter Valerio Adami in 1993. One of the Adami bottles is now the first whisky in history to exceed £2 million.

At least one of the 40 bottles is thought to have been opened and consumed, verified by images taken in Japan, while one of the Adami bottles is believed to have been destroyed during a Japanese earthquake in 2011.

“When we first set the record for the Fine & Rare back in 2019 it was a defining moment not just for Sotheby’s, but for me personally. This new record result for The Macallan Adami feels all the more emotional for me, having worked directly with the consignor and distillery to recondition, nose and authenticate this bottle, then finish this journey on the rostrum fielding bids in the room and on the phone. Bringing down the hammer for a new whisky world record is a feeling I’ll never forget,” Fowle added.

The sale of the bottle follows the news last week that an empty case for the Macallan 1926 had been purchased on eBay for £200, but subsequently valued at £138,000, based on previous sales of the whisky.

db has contacted the valuer for comment.

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