Which is the Greatest Whisky Collection Ever Sold?

Scotch whisky history is full of great rivalries, such as Ardbeg and Bruichladdich’s Peat Bog battles over ppm and Dalwhinnie and Braeval’s spat over which distillery is Scotland’s highest. Now we can add the great auction duel of 2019-2021 between Whisky Auctioneer and Sotheby’s to the list. This legendary contest was fought between two extraordinarily valuable whisky collections, with both auction houses claiming to have sold the most valuable collection ever seen—in the case of Whisky Auctioneer, the Perfect Collection, which when revealed in 2019, looked set to challenge Sotheby’s sale of The Ultimate Whisky Collection in a clash of online versus live bidding. We previously speculated on the two collections’ prospects for being crowned the greatest whisky collection of all time, but now that both stages of these auctions are over, it’s time to take a deep dive into the figures to settle the matter once and for all,

Our route to declaring a victor involved three tests that compared the auction performance of each collection. We asked who sold the single most expensive bottle; who achieved higher prices for a range of different bottles; and whose bottom line, with and without buyer’s premiums, was biggest.


Here, the bragging rights go to the collection that achieved the highest hammer price for a bottle of whisky selling for more than a million dollars. Although Whisky Auctioneer sold two million-dollar bottles, the most expensive bottle in either collection was the 1926 Macallan Fine & Rare 60 year old.

The Perfect Collection, Whisky Auctioneer The Ultimate Whisky Collection, Sotheby’s
1926 Macallan Fine & Rare 60 year old Highest Hammer Price $1,407,291 $1,537,443
Current World Record Holder for the Most Expensive Bottle of Whisky sold at Auction? No Yes

Winner of Round 1: The Ultimate Whisky Collection, Sotheby’s


Next, we sought out 15 bottles common to both collections for the head-to-head challenge. Setting bottle against bottle, the winner of this round is the collection that triumphed in the greatest number of individual hammer price contests.

Bottling The Perfect Collection, Whisky Auctioneer The Ultimate Whisky Collection, Sotheby’s
1937 Balvenie 50 year old $25,331 $40,998
1964 Black Bowmore First Edition 1993 $20,166 $25,624
1964 Bowmore 38 year old Oloroso Cask $16,887 $20,449
1964 Black Bowmore 42 year old $26,739 $30,749
1964 Gold Bowmore 43 year old $20,406 $17,937
1964 White Bowmore 44 year old $23,924 $17,937
1926 Dalmore 50 year old $21,109 $20,499
Glenfarclas Scottish Classic “Rob Roy” 40 year old $4,011 $3,844
1928 Macallan Anniversary Malt 50 year old $119,697 $92,247
1945 Macallan Fine & Rare 56 year old $32,368 $48,686
1946 Macallan Select Reserve 52 year old $25,501 $16,836
1949 Macallan Millennium 50 year old $36,590 $48,686
1949 Macallan Fine & Rare 52 year old #935 $44,236 $40,998
1966 Macallan Anniversary Malt 25 year old $4,363 $4,484
1919 Springbank 50 year old $234,189 $281,865

The 15 bottles above were chosen to reflect a range of distilleries, but the analysis was extended to 50 bottles found in both collections which Sotheby’s won 32-18.

Winner of Round 2: The Ultimate Whisky Collection, Sotheby’s


Lastly, we ascertained which collection was most valuable overall. As buyer’s premiums vary and exchange rates shift between auctions, this stage was determined as a grand total with and without buyer’s premiums.

The Perfect Collection, Whisky Auctioneer The Ultimate Whisky Collection, Sotheby’s
Buyer’s premium 10% 21% Part 1; 22% Part 2
Total Hammer Price $9,099,000 $9,279,000
Grand Total (incl. buyer’s premiums) $10,008,900 $11,200,961

Winner of Round 3: The Ultimate Whisky Collection, Sotheby’s

These were both remarkable whisky collections that attracted a global audience and set historic prices, but in the end, the difference between the hammer prices of these two $10 million collections was a mere $180,000. Scoring the successes that delivered a new world auction record for whisky and the highest total ever achieved for a single collection, we believe this particular dustup is now settled: The honor goes to The Ultimate Collection at Sotheby’s.

Note: All prices were converted using historical exchange rates on the day of each auction from www.xe.com.

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