How good is the world's most expensive whisky?

By Magnus Bennett
BBC Scotland News

  • Published
Macallan 1926 which sold for nearly £1.5mImage source, Sotheby's

A rare bottle of Scotch whisky hit the headlines this week after it was sold for a world record £1.45m at auction in London.

The Macallan 1926 60-year-old single malt from cask number 263 had been described by Sotheby's as the "holy grail" of whisky.

At more than £50,000 a dram, you might expect it to taste spectacular.

We tracked down one of the few people in the world to have tried the whisky to give us his verdict.

David Robertson tasted it a number of times between 1994 and 2000 when he was distillery manager and then master distiller at The Macallan.

It's a great whisky - but I've had better
Whisky expert
David Robertson

Mr Robertson, who is now a co-director of whisky experts Rare Whisky 101 (RW101), recalls: "My boss and I were lucky enough to have a few samples in the nosing room that we had to ensure were 'ok'.

"From memory it was an incredibly rich, intense spirit - full of dried fruits, of prunes and dates and tons of incredible spicy notes of cloves, ginger and cinnamon.

"I also recall zesty orange marmalade, hints of peat and smoke, finished with a delicious drying oak tannin from the sherry cask, and waxy, linseed oil and leather notes."

And his overall verdict?

"It's a great whisky - but I've had better. The Macallan 1979 Gran Reserva, for example, was truly a stunning dram. There are other bottles from other distillers that are at least as good."

Facts about cask number 263

Image source, Getty Images

The Spanish oak sherry cask was distilled in 1926 and bottled in 1986.

Only 40 bottles were produced.

Macallan commissioned pop artists Peter Blake and Valerio Adami to design labels for a limited edition of 24 bottles - 12 Adami and 12 Blake.

One bottle was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon.

The rest of the bottles form part of The Macallan Fine and Rare Collection, which includes the Macallan 1926.

Experts believe at least one of the bottles has been consumed.

The new owner of the Macallan 1926, who has not been identified, may never get round to tasting this particular bottle.

RW101 co-director Andy Simpson says purchasers of rare whisky fall into three categories - the drinker, the investor and the collector.

Image source, Sotheby's
Image caption,
The 60-year-old Macallan sold for a record £1.45m at auction

Mr Simpson thinks it unlikely that the bottle was bought to be consumed, given its value.

Nor does he think an investor is behind the purchase.

He explains: "The investor is looking to leverage value in a bottle by buying low and selling high, which is clearly not the case here.

"In my opinion - and I could be wrong - this bottle was bought by a collector who simply didn't care about the price because they needed it to complete a collection."