A spirits collection that's being described as the 'Holy Grail of Whisky' which is estimated to be worth up to £4m is set to go up for auction in London.

Auction house Sotheby’s say that The Ultimate Whisky Collection, will be the most valuable collection of whisky ever to be sold at auction and the Company’s first single-owner offering of spirits.

Showcasing the most comprehensive range of sought after Scotch whisky to come to the market from a private ‘cellar’, the collection is estimated to bring in the region of £4 million ($4.8 million).

The Ultimate Whisky Collection

The Macallan 18 Year Old Vertical. Picture: Sotheby’s

The sale opened for online bidding on 27 September and will culminate in a live auction on Thursday, 24 October at the Olympia event space in West Kensington, London, alongside RM Sotheby’s sale of collectable motor cars, an annual highlight on the European collector car calendar since 2007.

Sotheby’s say the unnamed collector who is selling the collection specialises in whiskies from Bowmore, Highland Park and especially The Macallan.

A spokesperson for Sotheby’s said: “During his pursuit of the best whiskies from each of these distilleries, the collector met and developed a relationship with U.S. based whisky specialist Jonathan Read who has played an important role in developing this collection.

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“Together, they sought to identify and complete important verticals as well as delve into the vast world of Scotch whiskies bottled decades ago.”

The Holy Grail of Whisky

Defined by its strong representation of highly sought after Macallan bottlings, half of the collection is comprised of lots from this popular distillery, with the bottles from the Speyside producer estimated to have a value in excess of £2.2 million alone.

Sotheby’s believe this is the most comprehensive collection of the Macallan Fine and Rare series ever offered at auction.

Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist, said: “The Ultimate Whisky Collection comprises what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive catalogue of whisky ever to be offered by a single owner in a single auction.

“Whilst collecting whisky can appeal to different people in different ways, it is clear that this collector is a true fan of the liquid within the bottles as well as the bottles themselves. Ultimately it is the enjoyment and appreciation of whisky that has made this collection what it is.”

The unique line-up is headed by the originally-labelled 60 years old The Macallan 1926 from cask #263, which yielded just 40 bottles; 12 bottles were labelled by Peter Blake, 12 by Valerio Adami, and two bottles were sold individually and given private labels, one of which was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon.

The remaining 14 were bottled as the anchor for the Fine and Rare series and labelled as such, making them the oldest bottles in the iconic ‘Fine and Rare’ series, both by age and by vintage.

In the last two years, three versions containing liquid from Cask 263 have all broken records at auction, but the fourth bottling from this cask has not been seen at auction for over a decade.

The Macallan 60 Years Old, Fine & Rare Series is the only bottle required to complete both the full collections of bottlings from cask 263 and the Fine and Rare vertical, a series to which The Macallan is continuing to add releases annually.

The collection also features two complete Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collections presented in bespoke, hand-made cabinets commissioned by Sotheby’s and designed by British craftsman James Laycock.

The Ultimate Whisky Collection

20 lots from legendary independent bottler Silvano Samaroli. Picture: Sotheby’s

Glenfiddich and Balvenie’s oldest bottlings, including Balvenie 50 year old 1937, Glenfiddich 50-year-old (1st and 2nd releases), and Glenfiddich 64 year old 1937.

Legendary releases from Gordon & Macphail under the G&M label, including the Mortlach and Glenlivet 70-year-old Generations series, The Macallan Queen’s Mother’s 80th Birthday, and a range of Glen Grant, Linkwood and Macallan Speymalt vintages.

Silvano Samaroli’s iconic releases, including Bowmore 18 year Bouquet, Laphroaig 15-year-old Sherry Cask 1967, Laphroaig 1970, Springbank 12-year-old and Ardbeg Sherry Wood 1974.

As well as an entire vertical of Port Ellen’s Annual Releases (1st -17th) to be sold as individual bottles, the Limited Edition 40 year old Bunnahabhain, and the 40 year old Ardbeg 1965.

Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s Wine, said: “It is an honour to launch Spirits as a new category for Sotheby’s Wine and to present the world’s largest and most important single-owner spirits sale. These bottles and casks come from an American connoisseur who built an incredible collection of rare scotch whisky over the last 20 years.

“This groundbreaking sale reminds me of the first wine sales that Sotheby’s held in New York in 1994 and Hong Kong in 2009 and we believe it will come to be viewed as a similarly historic moment in the spirits market. We are also excited to add two innovative features to this landmark event, not least by hosting the sale in the midst of RM Sotheby’s exhibition of cars at Olympia.

“It will also mark our first wine or spirits sale to open for online bidding ahead of leading up to a live auction. We look forward to continuing to innovate within both the wine and spirits market over the coming months.”

The collector added: “Collecting whisky over these past twenty years has been a real passion of mine, though it was not something I set out to do. I have always loved drinking whisky – as family and friends will attest, to this day I can be found most evenings with a cigar in one hand and a glass in the other – but I was a wine collector first.

“I then found myself looking at unique bottles of Scotch, initially attracted by the beauty of the labels. So I started this collection and realised that if I really spent time on it and was selective in my choices, I might be able to put together something significant and unique.

“Two decades on, I think the collection is at that point where it is indeed unique. Having cherished these bottles, I am now ready to share them with collectors around the world. I hope they find good homes in the hands of whisky lovers who will enjoy the experience as much as I did, both the drinking of them and the sense of history that each of these bottles brings.”

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About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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