The World’s Most Expensive Scotch Whisky
A good single-malt scotch whisky will always be sought after by aficionados; the smoky, peaty flavour of the clear to amber liquid can turn anyone into a devotee. Correspondingly, fans of Scotland’s most famous product are willing to pay heavily for the opportunity to own a bottle of and perhaps even taste the rarest and oldest whiskies in the world.
It is a fact that the longer a whisky is aged in an oak cask, the more complex and smooth its flavours will become. Scottish regulations require that anything labelled as “Scotch” must be aged for a minimum of three years and must be distilled in Scotland; scotch connoisseurs say that the spirit goes from good to great after it has been aged for at least ten years.
There are two single-malt whiskies that are in the competition for being considered the world’s most expensive: in 2010 a bottle of The Macallan 64-year-old single malt, housed in a specially-made “Lalique: Cire Perdue” crystal decanter sold at auction for a staggering $460,000 US, making it the most expensive whisky ever sold. On October 10, 2012, a bottle of 54-year-old Bowmore was expected to fetch $240,675 USD; however the whisky failed to sell as buyers were not prepared to meet the minimum asking price. Therefore, the bottle of 1957 Bowmore is considered to be the whisky with the world’s highest asking price.
The Macallan: Most expensive ever sold
The Macallan brand of whisky is distilled in the Speyside region of Scotland and is labelled according to Scottish regulations as a Highland Single Malt. Speyside whiskies are distilled in Strathspey, the region around the River Spey in north eastern Scotland, and are known to be the lightest and sweetest of the single malts. This is due to Speyside lacking the peat that is present in regions such as Islay, which gives some single malts their heavy, smoky notes, and also due to the lack of salinity and ozone which is characteristic of single malts which come from the coastal areas. Speyside whiskies further distinguish themselves by not having the floral, dry aromas and taste hints that are typical of Lowland whiskies. When Speyside whiskies are aged in sherry oak barrels, they become quite powerful and incredibly complex with subtle notes that many whisky lovers all over the world will willingly spend a fortune for.
Speyside is home to the world’s three top-selling single-malts: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and The Macallan all call the region home, and year after year, all brands of The Macallan, from the 12-year aged whisky to older variants, are deemed to be the world’s best. In fact, The Macallan is known for being the “gold standard” of scotch.
The 64-year-old The Macallan whisky which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the most expensive ever sold is available for those who’d like to try it: for a mere $64,000, one can have “a wee dram” at the £10, a bar at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel. The amount paid is then given to the charity of the buyer’s choice.
1957 Bowmore: The whisky with the world’s highest asking price
The 1957 Bowmore, which failed to sell on October 10 is expected to sell for more than its asking price the next time it is offered at auction; Bowmore is another single malt that is more than well-respected in whisky aficionado circles and has extraordinary tasting features that are preferred by those who enjoy a darker, smokier, and almost medicinal tasting dram.
The Bowmore distillery is found on Islay, an Inner Hebrides island off the west coast of Scotland. Having been in operation since 1779, older whiskies from this company are highly prized. Although Islay whiskies are known for being heavily peated and smoky with notes of seaweed, iodine and salt due to the distilleries being on the ocean’s shoreline, but Bowmore produces a more balanced product using only a medium-heavy peating process (25 ppm) and aging the whiskey in sherry casks. Other famed Islay single malt whiskies include Laphroaig which is the favourite beverage of fictional Edinburgh detective Rebus, Ardbeg, an award-winning scotch, and Lagavulin.
The 1957 Bowmore, which was bottled in 2011, is only one of a dozen bottles that are in existence. A second bottle is scheduled to go to auction in the United States on October 28 this year. According to whiskey specialist Martin Green of Bonhams, the auction house responsible for the attempted sale of the special bottle of Bowmore, “the skill and patience that has gone into the production of this product has not been appreciated by the market.”
The single malt was presented in a visually stunning hand-blown decanter encrusted with platinum, and according to the tasting notes given to the potential buyers at the auction, the primary flavours hinted of blueberries, figs, cassis, eucalyptus and sea salt with secondary flavours of dark chocolate and grapefruit. Aftertastes of star anise and bergamot were also noted. Bowmore stated that the proceeds of the sale were to go to five Scottish charities.
While The Macallan and Bowmore make the most expensive whiskies in the world, a whiskey lover need not despair if he or she cannot afford the asking price for the exquisite variants mentioned in our article; the Speyside distillery and the Islay company produce the world’s best entry-level 12 –year-old whiskies which are also deemed as outstanding by experts. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy a drop of whiskey in the evening after dinner, these younger single malts are an affordable luxury and can give us an authentic taste of the high life.