Whiskey is one of the most sumptuous delicacies known to humankind. Whether it’s centuries-old or freshly made, it’s delicious–and on top of that, it’s also incredibly lucrative.
Due to the complexities of whiskey production, the entanglements of whiskey with historical events, and the profound uniqueness of each bottle, there have been some truly gobsmacking whiskey sales.
While most whiskey fans are content to sip a bottle of newly produced Jack Daniels, many next-level whiskey connoisseurs can’t help but dig into the history of whiskey sales.
If you’re prepared to count yourself as one of them, then continue reading–because I’ve assembled a list of the 11 most expensive whiskeys ever sold.
The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926
The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 has a storied history that well justifies its two 2018 sales and one 2020 sales–each of which went for over $1.1 million.
Only 40 Macallan 1926 vintages were ever produced, and of these 40, 12 were given to the eponymous pop artist Valerio Adami, who designed labels for the bottles for their 1993 release.
As a result, each bottle is incredibly rare–the Macallan Vintage is a rare bottle amidst the distillery’s whiskeys, the 40 1926 vintages are even rarer, and the 12 Valerio Adami bottles are even rarer than that.
The Macallan Peter Blake 1926
Returning to the Macallan 1926, we find the Peter Blake-designed vintage bottles.
This bottle, like the Macallan Valerio Adami 1926, is incredibly rare by any standard. This is the most expensive Scotch whiskey on the market today.
However, it (and its 11 siblings) is doubly valuable because of its artistic signature: its labels were designed by Sir Peter Blake–the artist behind the cover art of the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.
Even further, Blake’s bottles were released in 1986, and this age means that it’s a special event whenever a bottle hits the market.
The Macallan 1926 bears Blake’s distinct 60s pop art influence, and with his pedigree, it’s no wonder that the bottle sold for $1.01 million in 2018.
The Macallan Red Collection
If there’s a lesson I learned from my deep dive into expensive whiskeys, it’s that Macallan must be pumping liquid gold out of their distillery–evidenced by this whiskey set, which sold for over 756,400 GBP (around 900,000 USD) in 2020.
The Red Collection is a set of six future-classic whiskeys (whiskeys that are bottled relatively recently but that are very rare and are expected to be incredibly valuable), each of which has been aged for decades: one for 40 years, one for 50, one for 60, one for 71, one for 74, and one for 78.
The 78-year-old bottle is especially unique, being the oldest age statement whiskey ever put to auction–World War II was just beginning when the oldest was bottled!
What’s more, the Red Collection features unique labels designed by famed film concept artist Javi Arnaz.
The Macallan M
I hope you’re not tired of hearing about incredibly expensive Macallan whiskeys because they’re not stopping anytime soon.
When the Macallan M sold for $628,000 in 2014, it fetched the highest auction price ever paid for a whiskey.
The Macallan M in question was one of only four bottles created by French glassmaker Lalique and designed by Fabien Baron, one of the most prolific graphic designers on the planet.
In addition, the Macallan M was the only bottle of the four to be inscribed with the signatures of Baron, Lalique glassmaker Silvio Denz, and Macallan whiskey maker Bob Dalgarno.
The Macallan Lalique Legacy Collection
The Macallan Lalique Legacy Collection continues Macallan’s expensive whiskey streak: the collection sold in 2017 for $993,000, nearly quadruple its projected price.
The Legacy Collection consisted of 12 bottles of single-malt Scotch, the youngest of which was 50 years old and the oldest of which was 79 years old.
In addition to premium Lalique bottles, the Macallan Lalique Legacy Collection was paired with an ebony cabinet designed and created by Lalique Maison, as well as six unique Lalique drinking glasses.
I’m not quite sure whether the lucky auction winner will ever break out those glasses to sip on the decades-old whiskey, but hopefully, the ebony cabinet keeps their flavors fully refined.
The Dalmore Decades No.6 Collection
The next premium whiskey set I encountered on my journey was the Dalmore Decades No. 6 Collection, which sold for USD 1.1 million–nearly four times the sale price of a similar whiskey collection–in 2021.
The immense difference came from the fact that amongst the six bottles of whiskey ranging from 20 years old to 60 years is one of the oldest whiskeys in Dalmore’s stable: the Royal Heritage 1951 vintage.
On top of the whiskeys themselves, the lucky buyer took home the six rare glass decanters, which featured silver collars and Dalmore’s emblem printed in sterling silver.
Craft Irish Whiskey Co.’s The Emerald Isle Collection
Jumping across the Irish Sea, we come to the next item on our list: Craft Irish Whiskey Co.’s Emerald Isle Collection, which sold for $2 million in 2021–making it the most expensive whiskey collection sold up to that point.
The collection is a seven-piece whiskey set that celebrates Ireland’s seven wonders.
It features two bottles of triple-distilled 30-year-old Irish whiskey, a bespoke egg by the world-famous Fabergé Limited, a hip flask of Emerald Isle whiskey (the rarest Irish whiskey on the planet), a humidor with Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva cigars, a cigar cutter, whisky stones, and gold plated water pipette.
If that superabundant collection is any indication, the buyer may just have gotten their $2 million money’s worth. Either that or now they have an excellent whiskey-themed craft jewelry set.
Check out our favorite Irish whiskeys that anyone can afford.
If the humble reader can’t tell from the diamond-studded bottle of Isabella’s Islay whiskey, the bottle costs a pretty penny.
It’s the most expensive bottle of whiskey in the world, going for around USD 6.2 million.
While the whiskey is a high-quality single malt in itself, the real draw is the luxurious and decadent art on the bottle.
The Isabella’s Islay comes in an English crystal decanter and is studded with over 8,500 diamonds, 300 rubies, and the equivalent of two bars of white gold.
Hanyu Ichiro Full Card Series
The Hanyu Ichiro Full Card series is another record-setter, being the most expensive collection of Japanese whiskey ever sold at auction–it netted a whopping USD 1.52 million!
The Full Card series is a collection of 54 bottles of Scotch-style single malt whiskey, with each bottle representing one of the cards in a standard deck of cards (including two jokers).
In addition to this bespoke artisanship, the Full Card Series is noteworthy for its legacy: the distillery closed in 2000, but the owner’s grandson preserved several hundred casks of their iconic whiskey and poured them into this set.
The Dalmore 62 is another record-setter, but for a more unique reason: the Dalmore 62 earned its 125,000-pound price tag as a “standard” bottle of scotch.
Standard, to be clear, doesn’t mean that somebody just grabbed it off a shelf. It means that the bottle is not adorned with special jewels or unique designs, unlike other items on this list.
The price emerged largely from the Dalmore 62’s rarity. It’s one of 12 bottles from the nearly-200-year-old brewery, and the 62 was released in 1942, making it an incredibly unique find.
The Macallan Michael Dillon 1926 60-Year-Old
The last item on this list is certainly not the least.
The Macallan Michael Dillon 1926 60-Year-Old whiskey is regarded as the crown jewel of whiskey collecting, being one of the best, most refined, and most famed bottles of whiskey of all time–which is fitting, since it realized over USD 1.4 million in an auction in 2018.
I want to emphasize just how old this whiskey is. It had already been aged for 60 years before it was bottled in 1926–meaning that it was bottled before the invention of the airplane, the automobile, and the telephone.
This bottle is even more valuable, though, for its artistry. It belongs to the same family as the Valerio Adami and Peter Blake bottles listed above, but while Adami and Blake designed multiple bottles, Irish artist Michael Dillon hand-painted just a single one.
Dillon’s beautiful, haunting, bucolic work reveals that one was all he needed.
When I began my journey into the world of premium whiskey, I thought that I was a bona fide whiskey lover.
Now, however, I am beginning to suspect that I have a long way left to go–especially if the best whiskeys in the world are selling for millions of dollars.
Of course, the best solution for the blues is more whiskey. That means that while I’m contemplating the ultra-rare, unique whiskeys whose flavors I can only imagine, I’ll be sipping on a lovely glass of a $20 vintage.
For those of us on a normal budget, check out our favorite whiskey bottles for sipping!