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Macallan 1926 auction sets new record

A bottle of The Macallan 1926 single malt whisky smashed the world auction record for any bottle of wine or spirits when it sold for nearly £2.2m (US$2.7m) at Sotheby’s in London on Saturday.

The 60-year-old whisky, featuring a label designed by Italian artist Valerio Adami, is one of only 40 bottled by Macallan in 1986 from ex-Sherry hogshead cask #263, and one of 12 featuring the Adami label. 

The final sum paid for the bottle – £2,187,500 (US$2,714,250) – was almost £1m above the auction house’s pre-sale high estimate of £1.2m, and eclipses the old record of £1.5m, paid at Sotheby’s in 2019 for another Macallan 1926, this time featuring the distillery’s Fine & Rare label.

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s global head of spirits, described Saturday’s sale – part of the auction house’s ‘Weekend of Whisky’ – as ‘nothing short of momentous for the whisky industry as a whole’.

He added: ‘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.’

During reconditioning, the bottle’s capsule and cork were replaced, fresh glue was applied to the corners of the labels, and a 1ml sample was taken to test against another Macallan 1926 bottle at the Glasgow offices of distillery owner Edrington.

Macallan master whisky maker Kirsteen Campbell, who nosed the single malt as part of the process, said: ‘The whisky had an incredible depth of character – rich, dark fruits, black cherry compôte 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.’

Of the 40 original bottles of Macallan 1926, 12 were given labels featuring artwork by celebrated pop artist Sir Peter Blake in 1986, and 12 more were given the Adami labels in 1993. Fourteen were labelled as Macallan Fine & Rare, and two had no labels at all.

One of these bottles, featuring a hand-painted depiction of Easter Elchies House, Macallan’s spiritual home, by Irish artist Michael Dillon, sold at Christie’s in London for £1.2m in November 2018.

Of the 12 Adami bottles, one is believed to have been lost in an earthquake in Japan during 2011, and Sotheby’s said ‘at least one’ of the others had been opened and consumed, verified by photographic evidence from Japan.

Bottles of Japanese whisky from the Kodawari collection

Highlights from the Kodawari lot of Japanese whiskies. Credit: Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s two-day Weekend of Whisky also set an auction record for a collection of Japanese whisky on Friday, when ‘Kodawari – The Greatest Japanese Whisky Collection’ fetched a total of £1.8m (US$2.2m).

The sale featured mainly single-cask releases from cult closed distillery Karuizawa, including a bottle of Karuizawa 1960, a 52-year-old whisky taken from cask #5627.


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