Rejoice, Common Folks: The Macallan 1926 We’ll Never Sip Sets New Auction Record
A bottle of The Macallan 1926 with the highly sought-after Valerio Adami label has shattered auction records, becoming the most expensive bottle of spirit or wine ever sold.
In 1986, only 40 bottles of this extraordinary Scotch whisky were filled after a 60-year maturation in The Macallan’s renowned sherry casks. These bottles, given their scarcity, have commanded staggering prices at auction, particularly in 2018 and 2019, where three variants (Sir Peter Blake, Michael Dillon, and Fine & Rare) consecutively broke the auction record.
Among these, only 12 were adorned with labels designed by Valerio Adami in 1993. Two others featured labels by Irish artist Michael Blake (the first whisky bottle to surpass £1 million at auction in 2018), and another 12 showcased labels by pop artist Sir Peter Blake.
This prized 1926 Valerio Adami edition was auctioned by Sotheby’s for a record £2,187,500 (US$2,714,250), significantly exceeding the previous high of £1.5 million (US$1.9 million) set by a Fine & Rare version in 2019.
Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s Global Head of Spirits, expressed the monumental significance of this sale for the whisky industry. He recounted the thrilling experience of handling the auction, from the authentication process with the distillery to the final hammer drop, as a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.
For the first time with a 1926 bottling, Sotheby’s collaborated directly with The Macallan to verify the whisky’s authenticity. The process included a nosing by The Macallan Master Whisky Maker, Kirsteen Campbell, who described the whisky as having a profound depth, with notes of rich dark fruits, black cherry compote, sweet antique oak, dark chocolate, treacle, and ginger.
The bottle underwent reconditioning, including capsule and cork replacement, label maintenance, and a meticulous 1ml sample test against another 1926 bottle at Edrington’s offices in Glasgow. This procedure sets a standard for future authentications of 1926 Macallan bottles.
This record-breaking sale was part of Sotheby’s ‘Weekend of Whisky’ event, which also set a new auction record for a collection of Japanese whisky. The collection, titled Kodawari: The Greatest Japanese Whisky Collection, fetched £1.8 million (US$2.2 million) and featured rare single cask releases predominantly from the now-closed Karuizawa distillery, including a standout 52-year-old bottle of Karuizawa 1960.