Single malt whiskeys are known for being more expensive than other types of whiskeys, but some single malts whiskeys are even more expensive than usual, and some are even more expensive than that. To show you what I mean, here’s a list of the twelve most expensive single malt whiskeys ever – so far.
(As an aside, I wrote a detailed article that explains exactly why some single malt whiskeys are so expensive, which you can find here.)
1. Macallan in Lalique Legacy Collection – $993,000
The Macallan is one of the most expensive single malt Scotch whisky brands in existence. Their whiskies have been known for breaking records when it comes to price both on a personal level (‘how much did you say that 15-year-old single malt Scotch whisky was?’) and at auction, which is why they make up so many of the single malt whiskies on this list.
The Macallan in Lalique Legacy Collection is a set of six Lalique crystal decanters containing some of the rarest Macallan single malt Scotch whiskies aged 50 to 65 years old. Each of the six limited-edition decanters had originally been single releases with the cheapest being $115,830 and the most expensive $262,834.
When the whole collection was sold at auction – housed in a bespoke natural ebony cabinet that also contains six miniatures and six pairs of Lalique Macallan glasses, it fetched $993,000.
2. Macallan 1926 60 Year Peter Blake Label – $1.04m
In 1986, 40 bottles of 60-year-old Macallan single malt Scotch whisky were released. They were all very expensive – in the tens of thousands of dollars, but some were given special labels which made them even more expensive. Twelve of these bottles have a label designed by famous pop artist Sir Peter Blake, which increased their value dramatically as one of these bottles was sold at auction for $1.04 million.
3. Macallan 1926 60 Year Valerio Adami – $1.07m
Another 12 of the 40 bottles of 1926 60-year-old Macallan single malt Scotch whisky, had their label designed by Italian painter Valerio Adami. This also increased their value dramatically as one of these bottles was sold at auction for $1.02 million – and another for $1.07 million.
4. The Dalmore Decades 6 Bottle Collection – $1.1m
The Dalmore Decades Six Bottle Collection was created by The Dalmore’s Master Distiller Richard Paterson. It consists of six bottles of single malt Scotch whisky that represent the different decades (hence the name) in which they were distilled: 1951, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1995 and 2000. These years mark notable moments in Scotch whisky and The Dalmore distillery history.
The oldest of the six was bottled in 2011 and the rest of them in 2020, making the 1951 vintage one of the oldest single malt Scotch whiskies ever to have been released by The Dalmore distillery.
Each vintage comes in a custom crystal decanter with a bespoke silver collar, a sterling silver Dalmore 12-point Royal stag emblem, and an illuminated pedestal topped with black oak, brushed chrome, and sterling silver.
There is only one Dalmore Decades Six Bottle Collection set and it sold at auction for $1.1 million. Part of the money was donated to Scotland’s first design museum, V&A Dundee, as part of a four-year partnership between the prestigious cultural institution and the distillery.
5. Suntory Yamazaki 55-Year-Old – $1.14m
Suntory is the oldest whisky making company in Japan and the country’s largest and most recognizable producer of quality whisky. Its flagship distillery, Yamazaki was in fact Japan’s first whisky distillery.
The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old is the oldest single malt ever released by Suntory and the oldest Japanese whisky in existence. All three generations of Yamazaki Master Blenders had a hand in making it.
Master Blender and Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii distilled the first component in 1960 and aged it (mostly) in Mizunara Oak casks. His son, Master Blender Keizo Saji, distilled two more components in 1961 and 1964 and aged them in American white Oak barrels. His son, Master Blender Shingo Torii blended the three whiskies together in 2020.
The single malt whisky comes in a crystal bottle with sand blasted calligraphy featuring gold dust and lacquer. It also features traditional Japanese crafts such as Washi paper on the capsule and a Kyo-kumihimo plaited cord. The bottle comes in a custom box crafted from Japanese Mizunara wood that’s finished with lacquer.
It’s age, history and the fact that there are only 100 bottles in existence, make the Suntory Yamazaki 55-Year-Old single malt whisky very expensive indeed, and while you could buy one for a couple of hundred thousand dollars less, the most expensive price for a bottle is $1.14 million.
6. The Intrepid: Macallan 1989 32 Year – $1.4m
The Intrepid is a massive 86-gallon bottle of 32-year-old Macallan single malt Scotch whisky. At 5’11”, the bottle is nearly six feet tall and more than twice the width of the average man. It contains the equivalent of 444 standard sized bottles, so the price of $1.4 million makes it just over $3,000 a bottle.
7. Hanyu Ichiro’s Malt Card Series Full Set – $1.52m
The Hanyu distillery was the smallest distillery in Japan. It was founded in 1941 but had to close in 2000 after being hit by the Japanese recession. Ichiro Akuto, grandson of the distillery’s founder, rescued 400 casks which were the remainder of its aging stocks.
In 2005 he created Ichiro’s Malt Card Series, a collection of single cask releases from Hanyu’s old stocks, each of which feature a label depicting a unique playing card. Ichiro released these single malt whiskies in a slow and steady stream over the next nine years and they eventually gained a cult-like following.
Each of these single malt whiskies are rare – only 100 bottles of each ‘card’ were created, and a set of Ichiro’s Malt Card Series – consisting of a full deck of 52 different card bottles plus two jokers, is rarer still. There are only four known sets in existence.
In 2015 a full set sold for $480,000 at auction and in 2019 another set sold for $917,000 at auction. However, in 2020 yet another set sold for $1.52 million at auction, making it not only one of the most expensive single malt whiskies in the world, but also the most expensive Japanese whisky in the world.
For more information about expensive Japanese whiskies see the more detailed article I wrote about the most expensive Japanese whiskies, which you can find here.
8. Macallan 1926 60 Year Michael Dillon – $1.53m
Returning to the above mentioned 40 bottles of 1926 60-year-old Macallan single malt Scotch whisky – the fate of 24 of which has already been discussed, one of the remaining 16 were given to Irish artist Michael Dillon, who hand-painted the bottle design, which depicts the Easter Elchies House on the Macallan’s Speyside estate, in beautiful detail.
It’s obviously a one of a kind, and when it sold for $1.53 million (or £1.2 million) at Christie’s auction house in London, it became the first whisky to sell for more than £1 million.
9. Macallan 1926 60 Year Fine & Rare – $1.9m
The rest of the 40 bottles of 1926 60-year-old Macallan single malt Scotch whisky were made part of the Macallan Fine and Rare Collection – a series of 57 vintage single malt Scotch whiskies produced by the distillery over eight decades, becoming the oldest whiskies in the collection.
And one of the Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Fine & Rare Collection whiskies was sold at auction for $1.9 million.
10. Cask of Macallan 1991 – $2.33m
A rare cask of Macallan 1991 was recently sold at auction for $2.33 million. The cask is believed to contain about 600 bottles of over 30-year-old, 51.1%ABV single malt Scotch whisky – making the price of each bottle about $3,800.
More importantly, since it’s a cask and not a bottle or a decanter, it will lose approximately 2% of its volume each year due to evaporation. This will make its contents increasingly rare and therefore, increasingly more valuable. Most estimates for a return on investment are between 5% – 8% a year.
11. Craft Irish Whiskey Company The Emerald Isle – $3m
The Craft Irish Whiskey Company was founded in 2018, with the intention of returning Irish whiskey to the heights it once enjoyed before its decline in the early part of the 20th century. Their mission is to reinvent Irish whiskey and demonstrate its potential as a luxury product, restoring Ireland’s reputation for crafting the finest whiskeys in the world.
One day Craft Irish Whiskey Company founder Jay Bradley was tasting the casks in his warehouse when he came across the smallest barrel he had – a 40L Pedro Ximénez cask just half filled with liquid, in which a single malt was finishing after three decades of maturation in American bourbon barrels. Tasting it, Jay found that it was an ultra-rare, impeccable whiskey.
Of course, the perfect single malt whiskey needs the perfect packaging where every component is crafted entirely by hand. The box cabinet is made of polished walnut wood with gold detailing, and the glass of the doors are surrounded by embedded emeralds. Inside the box is a bottle of The Emerald Isle single malt whiskey as well as:
- A bespoke Fabergé Celtic Egg handcrafted from 18k yellow gold featuring Fabergé’s legendary guilloché vitreous enamel in a pastel green. The egg is adorned with a pavé Celtic knot (a symbol of Irish heritage) and set with 104 brilliant-cut diamonds. Inside is a rough, uncut emerald, sourced from Gemfields’ Kagem mine in Zambia.
- A Fabergé watch that’s encased in rose gold, with rose gold crowns and upper and lower sapphire crystals. The watch contains a self-winding automatic movement and a precious and rare 22k gold oscillating weight. Each watch is numbered and finished with a brown alligator strap and rose gold buckle.
- Two Finn glasses.
- Pure obsidian whiskey stones.
- A 24k gold water pipette.
- Two ultra-rare Cohiba Gran Reserva VI cigars concealed in a humidor within the box.
- A gold-plated cigar cutter.
- A tasting log.
- A hip flask with a sample of The Emerald Isle single malt whiskey.
Only seven sets were made, the first of which was sold at auction for $2 million. The remaining sets were launched at exclusive events across the world where one was sold for more than $3 million, making it not only one of the most expensive single malt whiskeys in the world, but also the most expensive Irish whiskey in the world.
For more information about expensive Irish whiskeys see the more detailed article I wrote about the most expensive Irish whiskeys, which you can find here.
12. Isabella’s Islay – $6.2m
Isabella’s Islay is a 40-year-old cask-strength single malt Islay Scotch whisky. That’s all we know about the whisky itself. We do, however, know a lot more about the decanter.
The decanter is made from English crystal and covered with pure white gold. That’s right, it’s covered with pure white gold. Additionally, with the exception of the top of the neck, the pure white gold is then covered with diamonds. That’s right, the pure white gold is covered with diamonds. I know I’ve repeated myself twice, but I was worried you would think it was a typo.
The stopper is made of the finest white gold and the name ‘Isabella’s Islay’ is written on top of the diamonds that are on top of the pure white gold that’s on top of the English crystal, in rubies.
It took more than 5,000 diamonds, almost 250 rubies and the equivalent of two bars of white gold to make Isabella’s Islay, so it’s no wonder that it costs $6.2 million.