The laws of supply and demand are irrefutable and simple, and yet ... with a fixed quantity produced and a growing demand, the price of fine aged whisky was always going to be pushed forever higher, even before we underestimated the global esteem held for Scotch across all cultures, the relentless growth in the number of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) and the limitations of a production method that requires decades to increase output.
So it should not be surprising that a cask of 1987 Macallan Single Malt Scotch Whisky fetched HK$2,928,00 ($375,064) at a Spinks auction in Hong Kong on October 4, setting a new record for a whisky cask at auction and raising the previous record of $251,864 by a staggering 50 percent.
RareWhisky101 tracks the state of the whisky market with a number of market indices. The three indices tracked above are Apex Indices calculated by tracking the best performing bottles in the marketplace updated each month since 2010. These indices are dynamic, meaning that the bottles included can change based on performance metrics. The yellow index indicates the top 100 bottles in the marketplace, the brown is the top 200 and the blue is the best performing 1,000 bottles of Rare Whisky in the marketplace.
The previous record was set on July 4, 2014 by the same distillery (Macallan) and the same auction house (Spinks China), though the previous cask contained 24-year-old Macallan first barreled in 1991, and was considerably larger, containing approximately 490 bottles at cask strength of 53.4 percent.
The record-setting Scotch was distilled at The Macallan Glenlivet Distillery on April 13, 1987 (Cask number 3335) and matured in a sherry hogshead. Unlike many objects to be auctioned, the whisky was not transported to Hong Kong for the sale, and remains stored in The Macallan bonded warehouse in Scotland where it was measured in April at 102 RLA (Re-gauged Liters of Alcohol) at 50.5 percent alcohol.
Accordingly, in addition to becoming the most expensive whisky cask ever sold at auction, it is also the most expensive per-bottle cask sold at auction, as it will produce only 228 bottles at cask strength, at a price of HK$10,166 (US$1,302) per bottle.
"We estimated that it would sell for around HK$2.3 as it is very rare to see an aged Macallan sherry cask, never before has anything like that been offered to the public, as after all – it is a rather small barrel yielding less than 300 bottles even if you flip the cask upside-down," said Angie Ihlo Fung, Auctioneer and Whisky Specialist of Spink.
The sale of whisky casks is a recent innovation, and one can understand why when you realize that unlike wine, once whisky leaves the barrel and takes up residence in the bottle, its aging process ceases and it enters a kind of suspended animation ... as long as it's not opened. Hence a bottle of 30-year-old Scotch won't get any older, but the aging process for this cask will continue.
Finally, Macallan is no stranger to world auction records having sold a one-of-four-only 6 liter "Imperiale" Lalique crystal decanter of Macallan M (claimed to be "the world's most sophisticated single malt whisky") for US $628,000 at a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong on January 18, 2014. The $628,000 price was donated to charity and set a world record for a bottle of whisky, breaking Macallan's own record of $460,000 fetched by the Macallan Lalique Cire Perdue in 2010 at Sotheby's New York auction, also for charity.
That's the Lalique crystal decanter of Macallan M that fetched $628,000 on the left in the photo above, the Macallan Lalique Cire Perdue that sold for $460,000 in the center and on the right is a decanter of Isabella's Islay that sold for $6.2 million. Though it technically became the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold, and the whisky was no doubt a fine drop, the crystal decanter was framed in white gold and had 8,500 diamonds and 300 rubies embedded. Accordingly, it's not so much a $6.2 million bottle of whisky but a $6.2 million bottle with whisky in it.