A new auction record for a bottle of whisky was set at Sotheby’s in London yesterday when The Macallan 60-Year-Old 1926 soared to £1,452,000 – far surpassing its pre-sale estimate of £350,000-450,000.

This ‘holy grail’ of whiskies was the star of a sale of more than 460 bottles of Scotch whisky from the collection of a private American Connoisseur, put together over some 20 years.

Buyers from across the world drove prices well above estimate, leaving not a single lot unsold. The Ultimate Whisky Collection totalled £7,635,619.

Some 87% of lots achieve prices above pre-sale estimates, with bidders from around the world, with pronounced interest from Asia.

This was the most comprehensive catalogue of whisky ever to be offered by a single owner in a single auction, spanning whiskies from each of Scotland’s key whisky-producing regions: Speyside, Highland, Lowland, Islay and Campbeltown.

Jamie Ritchie, chairman, Sotheby’s Wine said: ‘There was an electric atmosphere in the room today for our first-ever single-owner spirits auction. This sale marks an historic moment for the spirits market, with new benchmark prices and a fresh approach to selling whisky. We are delighted that our spirits specialist Jonny Fowle, can celebrate such a ground-breaking first sale and we look forward to growing our spirits business.’

Jonny added: ‘This fantastic result is testament to the quality of the collection. It was remarkable to see so many iconic bottles break records – homage to the importance of distilleries such as Bowmore, Brora, Springbank and, of course, The Macallan.

‘The electricity in the auction room was palpable. There were cheers when the hammer fell on the Macallan Fine and Rare 1926, in one has to be one of the most exciting moments in the history of whisky sales. The final hammer dropped just in time for our friends at RM Sotheby’s to start their sale of collectible motor cars. Our clients were delighted to share their enjoyment and passion for both cars and whisky in the same space.’

A new auction record was set for the Springbank 50 Year Old 1919. Distilled in 1919, bottled in 1970, this Springbank is undoubtedly one of the rarest whiskies ever to be released, with only 24 bottles produced and once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold.

Distilled a year after the end of the First World War, at a time when distilleries throughout Scotland had ceased operations, the bottle contains a snapshot of history. The appearance on the market of one of these bottles caused a great deal of excitement, driving the final sale price to £266,200, almost double the pre-sale high estimate.

A new auction record was set for the Brora Limited Edition 40 Year Old. Brora’s first release to exceed 40 years, one of only 160 bottles to have been produced, reached new heights, selling for a record £54,450.

Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, Brora was closed in 1983 but is set to reopen next year after a meticulous brick-by-brick restoration over three years. Whisky distilled before Brora’s closure is often highly prized by global collectors and aficionados where bottles are reaching top prices at auctions around the world.

When released in 2014, the record-breaking Brora 40 Year old 1972 Vintage was one of just 160 bottles from the distillery, its rarest and oldest ever release, priced at £6,995. The whisky is presented in a crystal decanter and housed in a handcrafted wooden case created by the Queen’s cabinet makers at N.E.J Stevenson Ltd.

The full set of Brora Annual Releases, sold as individual bottles, achieved for a combined total of £30,129.

Sotheby’s whisky expert Jonny Fowle said: ‘This was one of the highlights sold in the Sotheby’s auction – the largest single collector whisky auction ever. With the 200th anniversary of Brora celebrated this year, and the distillery’s opening next year, I have seen significant interest in Brora from collectors around the world as we look ahead to an exciting time for the distillery.’

James Mackay, head of Rare and Collectible Spirits at Diageo, (the owner of Brora) said: ‘For many, Brora is considered a masterpiece of the whisky world due to the quality of its liquid and its extremely rare status. The distillery will enter a new era from next year when Brora’s historic stills will once again create spirit.’

Bottle number 1 of Bowmore’s “Crashing Waves”, the oldest whisky to be released from the legendary distiller after 54 long years if maturation, swelled to £363,000. One of only 12 ever released
in a hand-blown sculpted bottle depicting the crashing waves of the Atlantic against Islay’s shores, this is arguably the finest bottle of Islay whisky ever produced.

Bottles from each of the Bowmore Black releases (First, Second, Final and Bowmore Black 50 Year Old) met with significant demand to sell for a combined total of £119,790. The Bowmore Trilogy series, all of which were distilled in 1964, achieved an overall total of £62,920.

There was an outstanding representation of Dalmore bottlings, headlined by The Dalmore Eos 59 year old, which achieved £99,220. With a tiny release of just 20 bottles, this single malt was created from casks 1781 and 1782.

Nine casks of single malts were pursued by multiple bidders, selling for a combined total of £399,300. The Highland Park First Fill Oloroso Sherry Cask commanded the highest price, selling for

An entire vertical of Port Ellen’s Annual Releases (1st to 17th), sold as individual bottles, achieved a combined double-estimate total of £63,404. These bottlings are amongst the most sought after of all Scotland’s closed distilleries, with annual releases a must-own for collectors. In 2017 Diageo announced they would cease further Annual Releases, but that they planned to revive the distillery – which closed in 1983 – back to its former glory, with production due to recommence in the near future.

A range of legendary Silvano Samaroli bottlings was led by Bowmore Bouquet Samaroli 18 Year Old, which sold for a record £72,600.

The Sours: Scottish Field