A s part of the Sotheby’s 2023 Whisky Weekender, we are proud to present The World’s Most Valuable Whisky, The Macallan 1926 and bottles from The Legendary Collection of Pierre Chen, entitled The Epicurean’s Atlas. The Whisky Weekender is a two-day event occurring on the 17 and 18 November including not just this sale, but also こだわりKODAWARI | The Greatest Japanese Whisky Collection.
The World's Most Valuable Whisky: The Macallan Adami 1926
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).
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.
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 Kirsteen 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.
1980sIn 1987 a Guinness record was set for “The World’s Most Expensive Spirit”, when a bottle was sold in New York for £5,000.
1990sTwo bottles were sold at auction: in 1991 a Sir Peter Blake labelled bottle in Glasgow for £6,375; in 1996 a Valerio Adami labelled bottle in London for £12,000.
2000sTwo unlabelled bottles were sold by McTear’s in Glasgow, in 2001 for £15,000; in 2002 for £20,150. In 2007 a Fine & Rare labelled bottle at Christie’s in New York for $54,000 (£45,293).
2018In 2018, six bottles were sold, including the hand-painted bottle by Michael Dillon, which was the first bottle of whisky ever to surpass £1 million (Sir Peter Blake bottle: £615,062 / $766,762; Sir Peter Blake bottle: £816,983 / $1,108,485; Valerio Adami bottle: £886,112 / $1,1054,664; Valerio Adami bottle: £848,750 / $1,058,087; Sir Peter Blake bottle: £638,159 / $843,200; Michael Dillon bottle: £1,200,000 / $1,495,970).
2019In 2019, two bottles were sold, including a bottle with the iconic Fine and Rare label at Sotheby’s in London for £1,452,000 / US$1,873,951 - setting an auction record for any bottle of wine or spirits.
The Epicurean’s Atlas
This auction will also feature select bottles from the legendary cellar of visionary epicurean and aesthete Pierre Chen, as a curtain-raiser to the first of five dedicated auctions in leading locations around the world - beginning in November 2023 through to November 2024 - of 25,000 bottles of wine from Chen’s vast collection.
The sixteen lots on offer from Pierre Chen’s collection, carrying a combined estimated value in excess of £500,000, include The Macallan The Red Collection 77 Year Old, The Macallan in Lalique Genesis Decanter 72 Year Old – amongst the oldest ever Macallan single malts to be released by the distillery – and all six editions of The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection, an exclusive series of limited-edition decanters which were released over a decade, between 2005 and 2016
Also available is the Tales of The Macallan Volume I, the first edition in a series of single malt whiskies that pay tribute to The Macallan pioneers and their stories; encased in a Lalique crystal decanter, the rare whisky distilled in 1950 and bottled in 2021 is concealed within an 800-page almanac alongside a range of bottles from the legendary Fine and Rare series.
Other highlights include the Springbank 50 Year Old 1919, the oldest known vintage bottle of Springbank and one of only 24 released with this presentation. Bottled in 1970, it was at one time in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most expensive whisky. The whisky was distilled just a year after the end of the First World War and is one of oldest single vintage whiskies in existence.
Also available is a bottle of Highland Park 50 Year Old 1960 from the original 2010 release, complete with original artwork by jewellery-maker Maeve Gillies, the designer of this incredible bottle. Alongside this sits the Bowmore Arc-52 Year Old 1968, a collaboration between the distillery and Aston Martin and one of the oldest Bowmore whiskies ever released.
Also offered are several other high age statement releases from The Macallan including The Macallan Sir Peter Blake Anecdotes of Ages Down To Work 1967, The Macallan Exceptional Single Cask 2018/ASB-1683/13 1950 and The Macallan The Red Collection 78 Year Old.