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Rare Macallan 1926 whisky sells for £2.2m

A bottle of The Macallan 1926 has become the highest-selling spirit or wine at auction after selling for £2,187,500 (US$2,714,250) during a Sotheby’s auction in London.

Macallan 1926 Adami whisky
The Macallan 1926 Adami smashed the previous auction record after selling for more than £2.2m

On 18 November, the bottle of The Macallan 1926 Adami (named after the artist who designed the bottle, Valerio Adamo) sold for nearly three times its pre-sale low estimate, having been forecast to reach between £750,000 and £1.2 million (US$935,213-US$1.5m).

The new world record smashed the previous record of £1.5m (US$1.9m), which Sotheby’s achieved in 2019 for the Fine & Rare version of the whisky.

“This record-breaking result for The Macallan 1926 is nothing short of momentous for the whisky industry as a whole,” said Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s global head of spirits. “When we first set the record for the Fine & Rare back in 2019 it was a defining moment not just for Sotheby’s, but for me personally.

“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.”

After spending 60 years maturing in Sherry casks, only 40 bottles of The Macallan 1926 were bottled in 1986 – the oldest expression from the distillery at the time.

Of these, 12 were designed by artist Sir Peter Blake, 14 were decorated with the Fine & Rare labels, and two were released with no labels at all. One of these was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon, which became the first bottle of whisky at auction to sell for more than £1m in 2018.

The remaining 12 bottles had their labels designed by Adami.

Reconditioning the bottle

It is thought only 10 bottles by Adami remain intact. One is believed to have been destroyed during a Japanese earthquake in 2011, while at least one has been opened and consumed.

The auction record was broken three times between 2018 and 2019 by three variants, Sir Peter Blake, Michael Dillon, and Fine & Rare.

For the latest record-breaking sale, Sotheby’s worked with The Macallan to recondition and authenticate the bottle – a first for a 1926.

This included 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. Edrington is the owner of The Macallan.

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