The most expensive Whisky ever!

In the past 2 weeks the world record was broken for the most expensive Japanese Whisky ever sold at auction. A single bottle of 50 year old Yamazaki sold for £270,000! (US$298,879)It is the oldest expression of Yamazaki available with only 50 bottles in existence and broke the previous record set in May 2018 when a 52 year old bottle of Karuizawa sold for £245,000.

Both bottles were sold at Bonhams Whisky sale in Hong Kong who will be delighted with the results as well as the publicity. The new record for a Japanese Whisky means a double measure from this bottle would cost £19,285; now that is a drink you do not want to be spilling or adding ice to! 

It seems an obscene amount of money for a drink but it actually falls way short of the all-time record for a single bottle of Whisky sold at auction which was set when a 6 litre decanter of the Macallan M Imperiale was sold for $628,000 in January 2014 at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. This of course is not a truly fair comparison as this 6 litres equates to 8 standard sized bottles.

 However the record for the most expensive single standard size bottle of whisky was also set in May 2018 when a 1926 Macallan bottle with a label designed by Italian Artist Valerio Adami sold for $1.1m or in pounds sterling £751,703. There were only 12 bottles ever released and were originally offered as corporate gifts to Macallan’s most valued customers. The bottles are individually numbered and were distilled in 1926, then aged in Sherry casks for 60 years before being bottled and released in 1986. A lot of care and attention to detail has gone into every bottle but a double measure from this bottle comes in at a whopping £53,693. We live in a world now where a bottle of whisky could cost more than a 5 bedroom detached house but could that bottle ever be truly worth the money?

The reality is like with anything else, the value of an item is only determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. What they believe it is worth. Rare whiskies are now demanding prices at auction as high as some classic cars and are a very legitimate investment opportunity for those with the capital to obtain these bottles of liquid gold. The reason anyone will pay such incredible prices is mainly down to one factor, exclusivity.

These bottles cannot be recreated, there were only 12 ever produced and if one is consumed or destroyed the value of the remaining bottles would increase significantly. The existence and whereabouts of the bottles is largely unknown and although it is thought some were consumed, no one knows how many and were or how many remain. Rumours that a 1926 Adami Macallan along with a Sir Peter Blake Macallan bottle of similar value were destroyed in the 2011 earthquake in Japan only adds to the mystique and therefore the value placed when a bottle goes to auction. A bottle label produced by Sir Peter Blake (most famous for designing the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967) was sold at the same auction for just over $1m and the indication is these bottles will only increase in value and at a much higher rate than investing in regular stocks or shares.

 We know that an Adami bottle was sold at auction in 1996 for £12,000 and then in around 2006 one was sold for $75,000 (around £40,600 at the time). Fast forward 12 years and it has now reached over £750,000 at auction which is 10 times higher than its previous showing. Does this mean in another 12 years we could see a bottle sold for £7.5m? It seems absurd but there are a lot of people with a lot of money who desire the status of owning something so exclusive that there is a possibility no one else has it. We would not be surprised if this was to happen and one thing is pretty much certain, if it happens it will be at an auction in Hong Kong.