What is the world's most expensive whisky?

Published 30th Jan 2017
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Whisky, for some it is a passion, however, for others, it’s a pursuit of absolute perfection, a never-ending quest to discover the ideal blend.


Macallan M

But how much would you be willing to pay for the perfect dram?

At the Bon Accord pub in Glasgow, patrons can enjoy a £900 dram of a 77-year-old Glenlivet, one of only a hundred to be bottled in a unique decanter by independent bottlers Gordon and McPhail.

The bottle itself is worth around £20,000, but even this doesn’t come close to the most expensive bottle of scotch whisky ever.

In January 2014, at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong, a single bottle of Macallan “M” sold for HK$4.9million (£393,109), smashing the previous record for most expensive bottle of scotch by over £100,000.

Part of what made it so expensive was the amount of time the whisky was aged. The “M” was barrelled in seven hand picked sherry oak casks - out of 200,000 available - in Speyside over 70 years ago.

So what does a £393,000 bottle of scotch taste like?

According to the distillery, “vanilla accompanies green apple hand in hand, neither taking the lead. Ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon create an ensemble in the background, with polished oak offering to overstate, yet never does, but plays with a depth of resinous, juicy oranges, before the heavier raisin and sultana flavours take over, meandering to a long full finish.”

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Experts have also noted a leather and tobacco overtone to the amber coloured liquid.

However, the price tag was as much for the vessel holding the whisky as it was for the scotch itself.

The six litre, Lalique-crafted, crystal decanter - one of only four in existence - took 17 craftsmen more than 50 hours to complete, with 40 bottles destroyed during production because of slight imperfections.

All four are nicknamed after Roman emperors, with the ‘Constantine’ sold at the Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong. Of the three others, one was held for a private collector in Asia while the other two have been archived by The Macallan distillery.

However if the “M” isn’t quite exclusive enough, there is a pretender to the throne.

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Whisky lovers can fork out a reported $6.2million for the Isabella Islay. The bottle, made by The Luxury Beverage Company, has never been purchased to date, but the price tag more accurately reflects the decanter than its contents. Made from 100% English crystal, its encrusted with 8,500 diamonds and more than 300 rubies.
Little is known about the liquid inside and, despite the makers insisting it is “great,” it appears to be a case of style over substance.

James is a writer and freelance journalist who has lived in Edinburgh all his life and is well versed in the city's bar and nightlife scene.
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