NEW AUCTION RECORD FOR ANY BOTTLE OF WHISKY: Bottle of The Macallan 1926 Sells for £2.2 Million
Published Date: 18th November 2023
18 NOVEMBER 2023 - This afternoon at Sotheby's in London, a new auction record for any bottle of spirit or wine was set when The Macallan 1926, featuring the Valerio Adami label, sold for £2,187,500 / $2,714,250 - almost three times the pre-sale low estimate (est. £750,000-1.2 million) and eclipsing the previous record of £1.5m ($1.9m) achieved by Sotheby's in 2019, for the Fine & Rare version.
After being aged in sherry casks for six decades, just 40 bottles of The Macallan 1926 were bottled in 1986, representing the oldest Macallan whisky ever produced at that time. The appearance of any of these bottles at auction over the years has produced extraordinary results - across 2018 and 2019, the auction record was broken three times by three of the different variations (Sir Peter Blake, Michael Dillon, Fine & Rare).
Jonny Fowle, Sotheby's Global Head of Spirits, said: "This record-breaking result for The Macallan 1926 is nothing short of momentous for the whisky industry as a whole. 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."
Sotheby's worked directly with The Macallan to recondition and authenticate this bottle, the first time this has ever been done for a 1926. As part of the process The Macallan Master Whisky Maker, undertook a nosing of the whisky.
Kirsteen Campbell commented: "Being involved in the sensory analysis of this incomparable whisky was an incredible privilege.
"The whisky had an incredible depth of character - rich dark fruits, black cherry compote alongside sticky dates, followed by intense sweet antique oak, which is for me a recognisable note of such aged Macallan. Dark chocolate, treacle, ginger… the notes go on and on. It was a very special moment to experience the opening of this iconic 60 Years Old single malt, first bottled 37 years ago, and I hope the new custodian will enjoy the same privilege."
The reconditioning process involved 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. The bottle sold today is now the foundation for all other 1926 bottles that may undergo testing in the future.
Of the 40 bottles drawn in 1986, 14 were decorated with the iconic Fine and Rare labels. Two bottles were released with no labels at all. Of these two, one was hand painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon - when sold in 2018, it became the first bottle of whisky to surpass £1 million.
Of the remaining bottles, in 1986 twelve were labelled by Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake, whose work saw the most notable events from this year in the roaring 20s depicted in black and white sketches and photography. In 1993, a further 12 bottles had their labels designed by Valerio Adami. The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 is now the first bottle in history to exceed £2 million.
The rarity factor contributing to this particular bottle appearing on the market was amplified further in the knowledge that one of the Adami-labelled bottles is thought to have been destroyed during a Japanese earthquake in 2011. It is also believed that at least one of the has been opened and consumed, verified by images taken in Japan. Therefore one can assume that of the 12 Valerio Adami bottles originally created, only 10 remain in existence.
The Italian artist Valerio Adami (born in 1935) was recommended to The Macallan by their Italian agent, Armando Giovinetti. Limiting his palette to black and white for the label, Adami produced a design that has since become iconic in the world of whisky.
Today's sale was part of Sotheby's 'Weekend of Whisky', a two-day event which also established an auction record for a collection of Japanese whisky. Yesterday, KODAWARI | The Greatest Japanese Whisky Collection realised £1.8 million / $2.2 million, headlined by a bottle of Karuizawa 1960 - a 52 Year Old whisky from Cask #5627 – taking the top spot. The sale was predominantly made up of single cask releases from the closed Karuizawa distillery, many of which rarely come to auction.