Revealed: Auction Houses’ Most Expensive Whiskies of 2020

The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons—and when it comes to whisky, there have been a number of significant sales at auction, even during these turbulent times. We looked at the 2020 records for 15 leading auction houses, ranking them by the most expensive bottle (excluding cask sales and multi-bottle lots) of whisky they sold this year. Hammer prices of the winning bids are shown without buyer’s premiums. In a year of unprecedented change, the whisky auction market remained strong, with these bottles, many of them Macallans, leading the way.

2020 Whisky Auction Records: Most Expensive Bottle Sold by Auction House

macallan 40 year old15. Skinner Inc—Macallan 40 year old (2016 release)
Sold on: Feb. 13, 2020
Hammer Price: $14,000

With only 500 bottles created, this Macallan has notes of sherry, sultana, ginger, and cinnamon.

14. McTear’s Auctioneers—1948 Macallan Select Reserve 51 year old
Sold on: Feb. 28, 2020
Hammer Price: $14,055

Macallan released one bottle for every day of its distillation year, and this particular bottle was unique to May 11, 1948.

13. Christies—Macallan Millennium 50 year old
Sold on: October 1, 2020
Hammer Price: $28,000

Drawn from three casks filled on January 14, 1949; Macallan released 900 of these decanters to celebrate the new millennium.

midleton very rare silent distillery chapter 1 whiskey12. Irish Whiskey Auctions—Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Chapter 1
Sold on: March 23, 2020
Hammer Price: $45,198

This 45 year old peated single malt Irish whiskey from the Old Midleton Distillery, which closed in 1975, set the record for the most expensive Irish whiskey ever sold at auction.

dalmore 50 year old candela11. Whisky.Auction—Dalmore 50 year old Candela
Sold on: March 10, 2020
Hammer Price: $60,263

There were some impressive bottles of Dalmore auctioned this year. Only 77 bottles of Candela ever created by master blender Richard Paterson, making an appearance by the whisky a special occasion.

10. Grand Whisky Auction—Macallan in Lalique Aged 72 Years
Sold on: Sept. 14, 2020
Hammer Price: $77,250

After the conclusion of Macallan’s Six Pillars collection, the distillery has continued to work with Lalique to produce beautiful bottles for some of its oldest whiskies, including this one.

9. Acker Auctions—Macallan in Lalique Aged 72 Years 
Sold on: Nov. 5, 2020
Hammer Price: $77,366

The Genesis decanter was released to mark the opening of the new Macallan distillery and visitor center.

macallan 78 year old red collection8. Just Whisky—Macallan 78 year old: The Red Collection
Sold on: Dec. 13, 2020
Hammer Price: $92,581

The pinnacle of the Red Collection for the Macallan, this 2020 release was also the oldest whisky ever released.

7. Scotch Whisky Auctions—1928 Macallan 50 year old
Sold on: Sept. 6, 2020
Hammer Price: $108,930

Drawn from three casks laid down in 1926 and 1928, this venerable Macallan Anniversary Malt made its first appearance at Scotch Whisky Auctions this year.

6. Whisky Hammer—Macallan 78 year old: The Red Collection
Sold on: Oct. 25, 2020
Hammer Price: $120,661

Even with its simple, classic design, this great aged whisky became one of the most collectible releases of 2020.

macallan in lalique 60 year old linley edition5. Whisky Online Auctions—Macallan in Lalique 60 year old Linley Edition
Sold on: March 4, 2020
Hammer Price: $160,535

The bespoke cabinet by Viscount Linley ensured this limited-edition version of the fourth release in Macallan’s Six Pillars collection took top dollar.

4. Poly Auction—Yamazaki 50 year old Third Edition
Sold on: Dec. 2, 2020
Hammer Price $232,206

Before the Million Dollar Macallan era, this rare Yamazaki was once the most expensive bottle of whisky sold at auction.

1960 karuizawa 52 year old zodiac rat3. Sotheby’s—1960 Karuizawa 52 year old Zodiac Rat
Sold on: March 18, 2020
Hammer Price: $352,860

Each of the 41 bottles in this release was named after its individual netsuke (miniature sculpture), and this sale represents the highest price paid for a Japanese whisky from a closed distillery.

2. Bonhams—Yamazaki 55 year old
Sold on: Aug. 21, 2020
Hammer Price: $645,125

This newly released Yamazaki set a new record for Japanese whisky at auction, earning the seller over half a million dollars in profit.

1926-macallan 60 year old valerio adami1. Whisky Auctioneer—1926 Macallan 60 year old Valerio Adami
Sold on: Feb. 17, 2020
Hammer Price: $1,073,366

The first million-dollar whisky sold at an online whisky auction, this rare Macallan was the highlight of The Perfect Collection: Part One, an estate sale of nearly 4,000 bottles, and the most expensive single bottle of whisky sold in 2020.

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