‘Holy grail’ of whisky sells for record £1.5 million

The bottle of The Macallan 60 Year Old 1926 had been estimated to sell for between £350,000 and £450,000 ahead of its auction in London on Thursday.

The Macallan 60 Year Old 1926
The Macallan 60 Year Old 1926

A single bottle of the “holy grail” of whisky has sold at auction for a record £1.5 million, Sotheby’s has said.

The bottle of The Macallan 60 Year Old 1926 had been estimated to sell for between £350,000 and £450,000 ahead of its auction in London on Thursday.

It is part of a collection of Scotch whisky described as the most valuable to be offered at auction, and expected to sell for around £4 million in total.

The Ultimate Whisky Collection, the auction house’s first offering of spirits from a single owner, comprises 394 lots, 467 bottles and nine casks.

The company claims it is the most comprehensive collection of Scotch whisky to come to the market from a private seller – a wine collector who turned to Scotland’s national drink.

The man spent his youth in the UK but now lives in America and built his collection with the help of US-based whisky specialist Jonathan Read.

Whiskies from Bowmore, Highland Park and The Macallan distilleries became his focus, with Sotheby’s describing the original label 60-year-old The Macallan 1926 from cask number 263 as the holy grail of whisky.

The cask produced only 40 bottles.

The previous auction record for a single bottle was £1.2 million, set by another bottle of The Macallan 60 Year Old 1926 drawn from the same cask but presented in a unique bottle painted by the Irish artist Michael Dillon at a London auction in November last year.

The man behind the collection, who has not been named, has said previously: “Collecting whisky over these past 20 years has been a real passion of mine, though it was not something I set out to do.

“I have always loved drinking whisky – as family and friends will attest, to this day I can be found most evenings with a cigar in one hand and a glass in the other – but I was a wine collector first.

“I then found myself looking at unique bottles of Scotch, initially attracted by the beauty of the labels.”

Online bidding on the collection opened on September 27, culminating in Thursday’s live auction at the Olympia in West Kensington, London, alongside RM Sotheby’s sale of collectable motor cars.

Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s Wine, said: “It is an honour to launch spirits as a new category for Sotheby’s Wine and to present the world’s largest and most important single-owner spirits sale.

“These bottles and casks come from an American connoisseur who built an incredible collection of rare scotch whisky over the last 20 years.

“This groundbreaking sale reminds me of the first wine sales that Sotheby’s held in New York in 1994 and Hong Kong in 2009, and we believe it will come to be viewed as a similarly historic moment in the spirits market.”

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