The Most Rare and Expensive Whiskeys in the World

The first thing to say is that, no, you can’t afford them. Statistically, only one per cent of the population have pockets deep enough to be able to fork out the amount of money it takes to purchase one of these bottles of whiskeys. Even if you’re lucky enough to be in a club or bar that has a bottle and will open it to share for a fee-per-dram, you can bet it will be the most costly whiskey you’ll ever have tasted. Here’s a thing, though: while taste and scarcity are two reasons why the sky is the limit, many bottles of whiskey are exorbitantly expensive due to the vessels (or, if you like, decanters) that house them. If that sounds too much like a bling thing, then maybe you’re not the kind of person that could shell out the kind of money most people could buy a decent house for. To which we say, in the most polite way we can: bottoms up!


MACALLAN 1926

Described by Sotheby’s as the ‘holy grail’ of whiskey, the Macallan 1926 60-year-old single malt (from cask 263) is something else and more besides. We include Sotheby’s here because, in 2019, the UK auctioneers sold a bottle for a world record price of £1.45m. Doing the maths (loosely, depending on how thick your fingers are) that comes down to more than £50,000 per dram. Thought by Sotheby’s to have been bought (anonymously) solely to complete a collection, only 40 bottles were produced. Interestingly, David Robertson, a former Master Distiller at The Macallan, is one of the few people in the world to have tasted it. “From memory, it was an incredibly rich, intense spirit,” Robertson told the BBC in 2019, “full of dried fruits, of prunes and dates and tons of incredible spicy notes of cloves, ginger and cinnamon.” And his overall verdict? “It’s a great whisky – but I’ve had better. There are other bottles from other distillers that are at least as good.”


ISABELLA’S ISLAY

I beg your pardon, but did you really say $6m? Let’s repeat that for the incredulous amongst us. Six. Million. Dollars. On closer inspection, it appears that while the whiskey itself is indeed one of the highest of quality and luxury it is the personalised decanter (or bottle) that hikes the price up. The reason for this is that it is made of white gold and includes 300 rubies and 8,500 diamonds set amidst crafted hand-cut crystal. While this is clearly the Kim/Kanye of whiskey containers, let us not forget the liquid gold contained therein. It has single-malt cask strength, no chill filtering, no additives or colouring.


NUN’S ISLAND DISTILLERY PURE POT STILL WHISKEY

Almost 20 years ago, a spirit store in Wiltshire, England, was the recipient of a bottle of Pure Pot Still whiskey that dated back to the 1800s. Its provenance was Galway’s Nun’s Island Distillery, which closed during WW1. The bottle was subsequently placed on the market with an asking price of around £100,000 but there were no takers. It was again placed on the market less than ten years ago and sold for a considerably more affordable (for some) €6,000. 


THE MACALLAN M

You can almost hear whiskey connoisseurs smacking their lips with delight at this one. The Macallan M is one of the world’s oldest and most expensive – not too surprising, as the spirit is aged in Spanish Oak casks for anything between 25-75 years. Perhaps best known as part of the Macallan 1824 series, the whiskey is regarded as a ‘jewel in the crown’, with the smoothest notes tripping the light fantastic with mere whispers of wood smoke. Some years ago, a bottle was sold at an auction in Hong Kong for almost $630,000, but this may have had more to do with luxurious and exclusive presentation – only four Constantine crystal decanters were produced, created by fashion designer Fabien Baron and crafted by Lalique. This noted, the bottles are 28 inches in height and contain six litres. That’s a lot of decanter and a lot of whiskey!


DALMORE 62

In June of 2020, 26 bids at auction were made for two bottles of Dalmore 62, of which only a dozen (individually named, hand-signed and numbered) were produced in 2002. They were sold separately for $335,000 each. That is some price tag, needless to say, but whiskey experts look beyond the financial remit towards the aesthetics. The Scottish Highlands-based Mackenzie family libation is painstakingly matured in a hand-crafted cask and seasoned with the cherry-on-the-top-of-the-cake that is Gonzales Byass Matusalem Oloroso 30-Year-Old Sherry. Over the years, the bottles have sold for less (from $250,000 in 2011 to over $100,000 in 2017), but who’s counting when you have money to buy a house and not worry about the spare change?


Glenfiddich’s Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve. The last bottle goes up for auction on Tuesday.

GLENFIDDICH JANET SHEED ROBERTS RESERVE 1955

Rarity is the keyword here – only eleven bottles of this whiskey were produced. The number has relevance. The whiskey, one of the oldest single malts in the world, is named after the woman (the granddaughter of Glenfiddich’s founder, William Grant) who lived to be the oldest person in Scotland, with the bottles celebrating each decade of her life. History and heritage aside, this whiskey is regarded as one of the most perfectly harmonised, and we couldn’t put it better than what it says on the Glenfiddich website: “orange blossom and violets fold into toasted almonds with a modicum of smoke. Creamy vanilla and a drifting smoke beautifully balance with sweeter oak notes. A drop or two of water releases zesty orange and outstanding vibrancy.” If that doesn’t start the drooling then we’re not sure what will.


YAMAZAKI 50 YEAR SINGLE MALT

Veering away from Scotland for a change, may we present to you the most expensive single bottle of Japanese whiskey? There are three editions of the 50-year-old Yamazaki, bottled in 2005, 2007, and 2011. Only 50 bottles were produced for the 2005 edition, and its exclusivity is what has made it so eye-wateringly costly. We say ‘eye-watering’ but what we really mean is ‘out of our price range’ – a bottle was sold at auction in Taipei almost two years ago for about $430,000. Matured in Mizunara oak cases, the notes evoke depth-charged spices with fragrant hints of sandalwood and blossom. Such is the whiskey’s quality, it warranted this overview from the experts at Master of Malt: “An elegant and mind-blowing single malt. Once-in-a-lifetime stuff…”

WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA

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