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News Alert: Macallan’s Million-Dollar Bottle!

May 18, 2018

With a bid of HK$8,636,250 ($1.1m), Macallan has retaken the title of the world’s most expensive standard-sized bottle of whisky at auction. A bottle of Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 60-year-old was sold at Bonhams, Hong Kong today, shattering the existing record of HK$2,337,000 ($370,000) set by Yamazaki 50-year-old at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong in January.

The bidder, with paddle number 666, set a new record hammer price of HK$7.05 million for the Macallan bottle, and Bonhams adds a 22.5% buyer’s premium. The price was considerably higher than the HK$3.6-HK$4.5 million pre-auction estimate, and roughly triple the price paid for that Yamazaki 50-year-old in January.

Japanese whiskies—specifically Yamazaki and Karuizawa—have passed the auction record for a standard-sized bottle of whisky back and forth for the past three years.

In this sale, Bonhams actually sold the three most expensive standard-sized bottles of whisky ever auctioned. The Yamazaki record was first broken earlier in today’s auction by a bid of HK$6.5 million ($1.01m) for the Macallan Peter Blake 1926 60-year-old, which was Lot 381. But it only briefly held the record until Lot 608, the Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 60-year-old, went under the hammer. At the same sale, the record for the most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky was recaptured by Karuizawa for its 1960 52-year-old The Dragon, the world’s oldest bottling of Karuizawa, which sold for HK$2.45 million.

Previous Scotch whiskies to hold the auction record include Dalmore, Glenfiddich, and Bowmore. It’s been a long time coming for Macallan: a bottle of Macallan 1926 60-year-old last held this record in 2001, when a bidder paid $21,874 in Glasgow.

Bonhams believes that neither of these Macallan bottles has been seen in public for 30 years. Only 12 bottles of each were created, and they were given, rather than sold, to Macallan’s most important clients. Both are signed by the artist and on the reverse by Allan Shiach, then chairman of Macallan.

Valerio Adami was born in Italy in 1935 and, like Peter Blake, was part of the Pop Art movement. His stylized geometric label shows a nude drawn in black line, surrounded by a thick gold-bronze border. Peter Blake is most famous for working with The Beatles to create the iconic cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band in 1967. Blake’s label on the Macallan 1926 60-year-old is a composite image depicting Henry Ford, Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, Bobby Jones, and Bob Richards amongst others.

Macallan has been enjoying a phenomenal run at auction in recent years, and these records at Bonhams could mark the beginning of a new era for aged Scotch whisky at auction and abatement in the dominance of Japanese whisky in the salesroom.—Jonny McCormick

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