What’s the most someone has ever paid for whiskey? If you’re thinking a million or two for a bottle of ultra-aged Macallan, you’re on the right track… until now because today’s announcement blows all other whisky sales out of the water.
An entire cask of Ardbeg distilled in 1975 was sold to a private collector in Asia for a whopping £16 million (about $19 million), setting a new record.
There are no further details about who actually bought this cask, but The Sun reported that she is a huge scotch fan (obviously) who fell in love with Scotland after visiting the Highlands region. We do, however, know quite a bit about the whisky that she purchased. Cask No. 3 was distilled at Ardbeg, a distillery now owned by Moët Hennessy and located on the island of Islay, a region known for its smoky, peated whisky. This particular whisky was produced on Tuesday, November 25, 1975. This was just a few years before the distillery was shuttered through most of the following two decades, before being purchased by Glenmorangie in 1997 and reopened. The liquid was originally matured in two casks–bourbon and Oloroso sherry—for 38 years before being married together and transferred to a refill Oloroso sherry butt in 2014.
“Cask No. 3 is an extraordinary taste of Ardbeg’s past,” said Ardbeg director of whisky creation, Dr. Bill Lumsden, in a press release. “Its aromas are nutty, herbal and smoky, while its tastes of tar, espresso coffee and spearmint have an astonishing finesse for a whisky of such age. So little stock survives from this era, that this cask really is one of a kind… I look forward to exploring how it continues to evolve over the next five years.”
That last part of what Lumsden said is important. Cask No. 3 isn’t being immediately emptied and bottled for this well-heeled buyer. Over the next five years, she will receive 88 bottles annually as it continues to mature in a secure location at the distillery. So by 2026, the buyer will have a series of whiskies from this single cask ranging in age from 46 to 50 years old, each bottle worth about £36,000.
Rare whisky continues to be an attractive investment for both collectors who may never touch a drop as well as rabid enthusiasts. According to Andrew Shirley, editor of the Knight Frank Wealth Report, whisky has been the “top performing asset class in our Luxury Investment index” over the past decade. While Ardbeg has not normally been the first name in whisky investment, according to Becky Paskin, whiskey writer and founder of the OurWhisky subscription box service, that might be part of the appeal here.
“Of the many distilleries in Scotland which have a legacy, a history and a charm about them, Ardbeg is certainly one of those which could command such a high price for a vanishingly rare cask like this,” she said in a statement. “What’s most fascinating is that the owner hasn’t simply purchased an Ardbeg cask, she has invested in a vertical series of bottlings from one single cask, which will develop and mature over the next five years.”