Sotheby's to Offer Bottle Containing the World's Most Valuable Whisky on 18 November: The Macallan Adami 1926
Published Date: 19th October 2023
19 OCTOBER 2023 - This autumn, Sotheby’s will offer at auction a bottle containing the world’s most valuable whisky. The Macallan 1926 has always been recognised as the most sought-after Scotch whisky, as illustrated by the sum of £1.5m ($1.9m) achieved by Sotheby’s in 2019, for the Fine & Rare version, which set a new auction record for any bottle of wine or spirit.
After being aged in sherry casks for six decades, just 40 bottles of The Macallan 1926 were bottled in 1986, representing the oldest Macallan vintage ever produced. The 40 bottles were reportedly not made available for purchase; instead, some were offered to The Macallan’s top clients. The appearance of any of these bottles at auction over the years has resulted in 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).
Marking the first time one of the 40 bottles has come to auction at Sotheby’s since the current record was set, a bottle of The Macallan Adami 1926 will come under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on 18 November 2023, with an estimate of £750,000-1,200,000. Advance bidding will open on 1 November.
Distinguishing this offering even further is the fact that 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 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 Macallan 1926 Adami bottle to be offered by Sotheby’s is now the foundation for all other 1926 bottles that may undergo testing in the future. In order to recondition the capsule, a sample swatch of the old capsule was used as a material match by a producer in Austria to recreate an identical replacement matching the original.
Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Global Head of Spirits, said: “The Macallan 1926 is the one whisky that every auctioneer wants to sell and every collector wants to own. I am extremely excited to bring a bottle to a Sotheby’s auction for the first time since we set the record for this vintage four years ago. 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. 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.”
Of the 40 bottles drawn in 1986, a maximum of 14 were decorated with the iconic Fine and Rare labels, one of which was the record-breaking bottle sold by Sotheby’s in 2019. Two bottles were released with no labels at all. Of these two, one was hand painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon, a creation that saw Macallan’s own Easter Elchies House immortalised onto the bottle. 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 Italian painter Valerio Adami.
The rarity factor is amplified in the knowledge that one of the Adami-labelled bottles is thought to have been destroyed during a Japanese earthquake in 2011, while the remaining unlabelled bottle is unaccounted for. It is also believed that at least one of the 40 bottles has been opened and consumed, verified by images taken in Japan.
In 2022, The Macallan produced a short film focusing on the heritage of the brand back to the Janet Harbinson era of the 1920s. Fondly known as Nettie, Harbinson was central to The Macallan’s early success and the creation of The Macallan 1926, after taking charge of the distillery when her husband died in 1918. Perhaps without intending to, though always with an eye to developing the future of the brand, she created the most valuable whisky in the world. Watch the short film on The Macallan Website .
The Italian artist Valerio Adami (born in 1935) was recommended to The Macallan by their Italian agent, Armando Giovinetti. He has become 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.