The Macallan keeps its streak alive as the most coveted Scotch brand on the planet.
Advertisement
Glass os whisky on a cask
Credit: Getty Images

If you forget about a $20 bill in your coat pocket and find it 30 years laters, it's still worth $20. But the same cannot be said for rare whisky. If you forget about a cask of Scotch you bought for $6,275 in 1988, three decades later, it may be worth nearly $1.3 million.

A cask of The Macallan distilled in 1988 is laying claim to the record for most expensive whisky cask ever sold at auction after fetching $1,295,500 on Sunday from an unnamed American buyer bidding through the online auction site Whisky Hammer. The previous record — with an important caveat discussed below — was only a year old: A Macallan 30-year-old re-racked Sherry hogshead sold for $572,000 through Bonhams in 2021.

Adding intrigue to the story is how the cask landed at auction in the first place. It sold for a mere £5,000 (about $6,275 at the current conversion rate) after being filled on May 5, 1988, but the buyer apparently forgot they had purchased it. Held in bond by The Macallan for over three decades, the Scotch maker reminded the purchaser who, we'll assume, saw dollar signs like little tweety birds spinning around their head.

Whisky Hammer explains that the 374-liter refill butt could currently yield 534 bottles of 700 milliliters each — a number that also breaks Bonhams "per bottle" price record for a cask of whisky. This 1988 Macallan works out to $2,426 per bottle compared to the smaller Bonhams cask which still only sold for the equivalent of $2,200 per bottle.

"When this cask was listed in our auction, we knew it had the potential to make history," Daniel Milne, Whisky Hammer's founder and managing director, stated. "To come across a cask of this age, quality and size is extraordinary in itself, enhanced by the fact the liquid was distilled at The Macallan which is reflected in the global attention the cask has attracted."

As for the aforementioned caveat, this past October, a cask of Macallan 1991 sold for $2.33 million at an auction from VCL Vintners, but that cask also included a specially-commissioned NFT from artist Trevor Jones. How important was the NFT to the price of the cask? That's up for debate.

This latest cask sale, however, continues The Macallan's streak of leading the way in an ever-growing rare whiskey market by breaking and re-breaking records, including holding one of the most coveted: the most expensive single bottle ever sold.