A rare 60-year-old Macallan whisky fetched HK$7.96 million ($1.01 million) at Bonhams Hong Kong on Friday, smashing the record for the most expensive bottle ever sold at auction.
The record lasted barely a dram. A second bottle, also from the 1926 vintage, went for $1.1 million hours later at the same event.
Both sold for more than twice their high estimate of HK$4.5 million. Pre sale forecasts exclude the 22.5 percent buyers’ premium added to the hammer price.
The new record works out to $14,466 per centiliter for the standard 75-centiliter bottle, one of only 12 ever made when the limited edition was released in 1986 after aging for 60 years in a cask by the Scottish distillery.
Prices for whiskies have soared in recent years as more and more buyers seek out rare single malts from Scotland, including Dalmore and Port Ellen, as well as Japanese distilleries Karuizawa and Yamazaki.
Since the end of 2008, an index of whisky prices compiled by Rare Whisky 101 has increased 580 percent while the Liv-ex 100 Benchmark Fine Wine Index grew about 50 percent.
“Nothing can compare with the performance of whisky, it has proved its status as an alternative investment,” said Daniel Lam, head of wine and whisky at Bonhams Hong Kong.
While a wine’s vintage is determined by the year in which the grapes were picked — bottling usually takes place within 16 to 24 months after the harvest — the age of a whisky refers to the time spent aging in a cask. For example, the Macallan 1926 60 year old was not bottled until 1986.
Because of continued loss due to evaporation, known as the “angel’s share,” older whiskies produce fewer bottles, adding to their rarity. Unlike wine, which should be consumed within hours of opening, a bottle of whisky can be enjoyed for up to one year after it has been uncorked.
The record-breaking bottle was one of 12 numbered and signed by Italian artist Valerio Adami who designed the label. The earlier bottle sold was also one of 12 of a limited edition label designed by Peter Blake, the British pop artist best known for co-creating the cover for the Beatles Album “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The previous auction record of HK$4.9 million was set in 2014 in Hong Kong for a six-liter bottle of 60-year-old Macallan in a Lalique decanter. That’s eight times larger than the standard-sized bottle sold Friday.