Whiskey on the rocks in a cask
Where you stand between teetotaller and alcohol aficionado will likely determine whether you think old liquor is something you cherish or something you throw away when you clean out your grandparents’ house. But, if Sotheby’s is to be believed, age equals a lot of money. Indeed, if you were looking to dip your toe in the aged-whiskey market, the opening item from the famed auction house’s 2019 The Ultimate Whiskey Collection auction catalog at £2,600 – £3,500, (about $2,900 and $3,900). This was for nine bottles of 18-year-old Macallan from the 1980s and ’90s. Given that a new bottle may cost you upwards of $400, these bottles actually turned out to be a bargain, so long as you have four grand up front (via Total Wine).
But, as you go further back in time the amber liquor becomes more valuable. Some say that whiskey’s flavor improves with age. However, according to Scotch Whisky Magazine, whiskey does not continue to improve in the bottle in the same way wine does, although its flavor can change. Known as OBE, or “old bottle effect,” older whiskies take on a peachy, low-tannin flavor with a smooth mouthfeel. Whiskey aged in the cask, on the other hand, continues to improve, and people are willing to pay a pretty penny for this inimitable effect.
Record Breaking Whiskey Sells At Sotheby’s
The Macallan The Reach 81
Sotheby’s London auction house recently sold a record-breaking bottle of whiskey for 300,000 GBP (about $340,000), according to Food & Wine. Seem a little low to be record-breaking? Well, the sales price isn’t the record it broke. That honor went to the 2019 sale of Macallan 1926 for a cool $1.9 million, also sold through Sotheby’s, according to Food & Wine. What’s remarkable about this particular bottle is its age, or rather the age of the whiskey in it. This whiskey is the oldest cask-aged whiskey ever sold; it’s been aged in the cask for 81 years. This whiskey sat through World War II while the distillery closed its doors.
The Macallan The Reach 81 Years Old — the bottle’s official name — beat the previous world’s oldest whiskey both in age and in sales. The previous title holder was an 80-year-old Gordon & Macphail that sold for 142,000 GBP (about $193,000). The Macallan The Reach 81 Years Old comes with a bronze statue of three hands that doubles as a decanter holder and proceeds benefit The Macallan Artisan Apprenticeship Fund, which provides a three-year stipend for heritage artisan crafts so apprentices can learn the skills of their chosen trade (per Macallan). The decanter itself is hand blown and the whole statue rests in an included display case hewn from a fallen elm tree rumored to be from The Macallan Estate itself (via Riverside Whisky Partners). The sale also included a private tour of the estate. Even with all those add-ons, that’s still one stiff drink.