The year 2021 was packed with exciting new whisky releases and a busy calendar of whisky auctions around the globe. Our annual list ranks the world’s 20 leading auction houses by the most expensive bottle of whisky they sold in 2021 (excluding cask sales and multi-bottle lots). Hammer prices of the winning bids are shown without buyer’s premiums. While half of the bottles are Macallan, the remaining auction houses served up a diverse mix of single malt scotch, rye, bourbon, Irish, and Japanese whiskies to top their sales this year.
2021 MOST EXPENSIVE WHISKY BY AUCTION HOUSE
20. Unicorn Auctions: Michter’s 25 year old Straight Rye
Sold on: December 19
Hammer Price: $21,000
Chicago-based Unicorn Auctions broke their house record several times in 2021, setting a new world record with this 2011 rye from Michter’s.
19. Whiskyauction.com: James McArthur 12 year old (distilled at Port Ellen)
Sold on: May 3
Hammer Price: $25,469
This European auction house sold several bottles of this cask strength independent bottling of Port Ellen, which is unusual to find bottled at such a young age.
18. Speyside Whisky Auctions: Karuizawa Ruby Geisha 34 year old (Cask No. 3668)
Sold on: October 24
Hammer Price: $33,019
The appeal of Karuizawa remains undiminished among collectors, and this Geisha bottling delivered the highest price for this relatively new auction house located next door to Benromach Distillery.
17. McTear’s Auctioneers: Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Ultra Glenlivet 70 year old 1943
Sold on: October 22
Hammer Price: $35,752
Private Collection Ultra is reserved for Gordon & MacPhail’s most precious stocks, and as well as this Glenlivet, the series included a Linkwood 60 year old distilled in 1956, and two Longmorn 57 year olds distilled in 1961 and drawn from twin casks.
16. Irish Whiskey Auctions: Midleton Very Rare 1988
Sold on: March 21
Hammer Price: $36,286
Certain vintages of Midleton Very Rare were produced in smaller quantities, such as 2009 and 2020, and consequently, attract much higher auction prices, but the 1988 release is the rarest of them all.
15. Acker Auctions: Macallan Millennium 50 year old
Sold on: April 23
Hammer Price: $37,367
Drawn from three casks filled on January 14, 1949; Macallan released 900 of these decanters to celebrate the new millennium, so it’s always a contender for this list.
14. Kentucky Bourbon Benefit: Old Rip Van Winkle 23 year old Decanter
Sold on: December 21
Hammer Price: $44,000
Among an array of barrel pick experiences, signed memorabilia, and great bourbon, this auction went live to benefit those affected by devastating tornadoes that hit Kentucky in December. Preston Van Winkle personally donated this Glencairn crystal decanter released in 2009, one of 1,200 produced.
13. Hart Davis Hart: Macallan Anniversary Malt 50 year old
Sold on: March 26
Hammer Price: $70,000
Although it sold for over $100,000 last year, this Macallan Anniversary Malt, drawn from three casks laid down in 1926 and 1928, always draws a crowd.
12. Whisky Online Auctions: Macallan 78 year old The Red Collection
Sold on: February 17
Hammer Price: $75,869
Sarah Burgess, Macallan’s lead whisky maker, selected and created this aged Speyside whisky, the oldest of the six bottles in the Red Collection.
11. Scotch Whisky Auctions: Macallan in Lalique 72 year old
Sold on: April 4
Hammer Price: $80,217
This remarkable-looking decanter was part of a 600 bottle release in 2018 that extended the partnership between Macallan and Lalique.
10. Grand Whisky Auction: Macallan in Lalique 72 year old
Sold on August 16
Hammer Price: $81,715
The bespoke crystal vessel was designed to reflect the architecture of the new Macallan Distillery.
9. Whisky.Auction: Macallan 78 year old The Red Collection
Sold on: November 9
Hammer Price: $86,714
The second of three appearances of this expression on this year’s list, the Red Collection reflects the natural red color found in well-aged aged Macallan as well as the life of their founder, Alexander Reid (the Scottish surname Reid meaning ‘Red’), and the red ribbons tied around vintage Macallans from the early 20th century.
8. Just Whisky: Macallan 78 year old The Red Collection
Sold on: February 22
Hammer Price: $89,011
7. Poly Auction: Macallan in Lalique 62 year old
Sold on: December 2
Hammer Price: $93,669
6. Skinner: Old Ingledew
Sold on: June 30
Hammer Price: $110,000
During the pre-auction publicity, Skinner stated that this could be the oldest bottle of whiskey in existence, despite questions surrounding the interpretation and accuracy of the radiocarbon dating. The final auction catalog gave a more measured view and on auction day, it soared to nearly three times its high estimate.
5. Bonhams: Macallan in Lalique 50 year old
Sold on: May 21
Hammer Price: $122,358
Macallan produced 470 of these decanters in 2005, the first release in the Six Pillars Collection. With deep, rich flavors following decades of maturation in sherry casks, this single malt still has a whiff of peat smoke on the finish like many older Macallans from the early to mid 20th century.
4. Christie’s: Springbank 50 year old 1919
Sold on: December 3
Hammer Price: $194,500
After a muted year of whisky sales, Christie’s secured a top 5 place on this list with the sale of this 50 year old Campbeltown whisky bottled at an ABV of 37.8%. It fetched a great price, but this Springbank has sold for more.
3. Sotheby’s: Bowmore Onyx 51 year old 1970
Sold on: December 3
Hammer Price: $423,401
Narrowly beating a bottle of Yamazaki 55 year old to net Sotheby’s best single bottle price of 2021, this unique release was created for The Distillers One of One auction, a new biennial charity event. The arresting 1.4-liter hand-blown black glass bottle was inspired by Islay’s rugged landscape.
2. Whisky Hammer: Yamazaki 55 year old
Sold on: November 28
Hammer Price: $506,953
Several bottles of this aged Japanese single malt went under the hammer in 2021 and prices remained strong wherever it appeared. Like with Bonhams in 2020, Yamazaki 55 year old achieved second place in the rankings, although Whisky Hammer’s best price still fell short of the auction record.
1. Whisky Auctioneer: Macallan Fine & Rare 60 year old 1926
Sold on: February 22
Hammer Price: $1,407,291
This Macallan was the only million-dollar whisky sold in 2021 and set a new house record for Whisky Auctioneer during the $10 million Perfect Collection sale. The winning bid was 31% higher than the most expensive single bottle auctioned in 2020, although it did not set a new world record. This marks two years at the top of our chart for Whisky Auctioneer–can they make it a hat trick in 2022?