Golden Barrel: The Top 5 Most Expensive Whiskeys
Whiskey has outperformed the S&P 500 over the past decade.
Updated Mar 18, 2023
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It’s no secret that a good bottle of whiskey ain't cheap. The market has been steadily growing over the last few years, generating $17 billion in revenue in the U.S. in 2022 (so far). Among consumers, whiskey is a more popular drink than vodka and other types of spirits.
Whiskey has outperformed the S&P 500 for the past ten years.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reported that 2021 revenues on Irish whiskey were up 16.3% while single malt Scotch gained 14.4%.
Whiskey also did well as an asset class, outperforming the S&P 500 over the last ten years while beating other traditional investments like stocks, bonds, and gold.
Average luxury whiskey asset performance beat S&P 500 stocks, treasury bonds, and gold over the past decade and was outperformed only by Bitcoin.
The most expensive whiskey in the world
The most expensive whiskey in the world
As markets become more volatile, investors are turning to collectibles, including alcoholic beverages like fine wine and luxury whiskey. So how do you know which type of expensive whiskey to buy? Get out your torch and wood chips and ready your hip flask as we taste-test the most expensive whiskey in the world.
1. The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old
- Type of whiskey: Scotch
- Origin: Speyside-Highlands, Scotland
- Highest sale price: $1.9 million
- Supply: 40
The Macallan 1926 60-year-old is perhaps the most expensive whiskey in the world. Sometimes referred to as the holy grail of whisky (the jury is still out on whether it actually makes you younger), the Macallan’s legendary original cask 263 resulted in just 40 bottles of Scotch.
Chart tracking sale prices of assets similar to a Macallan 40 year old whisky from Nov. 2016 to May 2022 (not adjusted for inflation).
In May 2018, a single bottle sold for $1 million, while another bottle sold for £1,452,000 ($1.9 million) a year later in 2019.
The 1926 cask was matured for 60 years in ex-sherry casks at the Speyside distillery. Twelve bottles were designed and individually numbered by famous artists Valerio Adami and Peter Blake (who created the album cover for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). One bottle was hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon—which could explain why it sold for £1.2 million ($1.6 million) in 2018.
Macallan 60 Year Old Scotch bottles handpainted by Irish artist Michael Dillon.
Other whiskies from the Macallan distillery have also sold for millions. A cask of Macallan 1991 sold at a record price of $2.33 million in 2021, along with a specially commissioned whiskey NFT. While we don’t know when the next 1926 60-year-old Macallan will be auctioned, you can invest in expensive whiskey from the luxury Scotch maker through Vinovest’s newest whisky investing platform, Whiskeyvest.
Other notable Macallan Scotch bottles
- 72-year-old Macallan Lalique Legacy collection (from the six pillars odyssey)
- 78-year-old Macallan Red collection
- 60-year-old 1926 Macallan Valerio Adami
2. The Yamazaki 55 Year Old
- Type of whiskey: Single malt Japanese whisky
- Origin: Japan
- Highest sale price: $800,000
- Supply: 200 (so far)
The Yamazaki 55 year old might not be the most expensive whiskey in the world but it’s the oldest bottle in Japan. The average price for a bottle? $800,000. Or at least, that’s how much a bottle sold for in 2020, making it the most expensive Japanese whisky ever sold.
A bottle of Yamazaki 55 year old which sold for $800,000 in 2020.
The Yamazaki single malt whisky is a blend of Mizunara cask whisky distilled by Suntory in 1960 and White Oak cask whisky distilled in 1964. Each bottle comes in a custom box of Japanese Mizunara wood finished with a black lacquer and gold dust. It was bottled in 2020, making it the oldest Japanese whisky on the market.
The bottles have only been released 100 at a time so far—100 just in Japan in 2020 and 100 worldwide in 2021, which retailed for $60,000 each at the time. That means these bottles can potentially reap over 10x returns since whiskey is one of the most stable asset classes.
3. Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter Two
- Type of whiskey: Irish Whiskey
- Origin: Cork, Ireland
- Highest sale price: $47,790
- Supply: 70
The Midleton Very Rare whiskey collection is another expensive whiskey that's sought after by collectors (and is, indeed, very rare). Considered one of the oldest Irish whiskeys, there have only been two collections released so far. Chapter Two, released in 2022, is considered one of the best expressions so far.
This 46-year-old single-pot whiskey was distilled at the Old Midleton Distillery in 1973, just two years before it closed. It spent time in bourbon, sherry, and Port casks before maturing in a third-fill bourbon cask. This rare collection was bottled in House of Waterford crystal decanters. The expensive bottles come in a box made by Irish designer John Galvin and even comes with a 50 ml miniature of the same whiskey to give to a friend or take as a nightcap next time you're on a plane.
A bottle of Midleton Chapter Two whiskey that sold for €48,000 ($47,790.24) in March 2022.
A bottle of the Midleton Chapter Two whiskey sold for €48,000 ($47,790.24) in March 2022, while the original bottles retailed for $45,000 each. Getting your hands on Midleton Chapter Two might be difficult since there were only 70 blank bottles released, but you can buy fractional shares of other rare whiskies through investing platform Rally.
4. Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old
- Type of whiskey: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- Origin: Louisville, Kentucky
- Highest sale price: $65,000
- Supply: 710
Old Rip Van Winkle has become one of the world’s most coveted bourbons. The American distiller is a family-owned brand founded by Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle. Van Winkle produced his first bottle in the 1930s and has been making some of the finest bourbon since. Today owned and operated by Buffalo Trace, the brand only releases stock once a year to wholesalers in mid-October and it can be difficult to source bottles from the small producer.
Another expensive whiskey is 25-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon which retailed for $1,800 when first released in 2017. Today, one bottle goes for an average price of $55,000 but it can go for as much as $65,000.
Collection of Old Rip Van Winkle bourbons offered for $14K on Rally.
Distilled in 1989, matured in Kentucky until the barrels moved to Buffalo Trace in 2009, and aged until 2014 before being tanked in a stainless-steel container—the 25-year-old bottle is the most mature expression still produced by Old Rip Van Winkle. With just 710 bottles of handmade glass decanters from the Glencairn Crystal Studio, it can be very difficult to source these days.
5. Orphan Barrel Entrapment 25 Year Old
- Type of whiskey: Canadian blended whisky
- Origin: Gimli, Canada
- Highest sale price: $600
Canadian whiskey isn’t as well-known as other brands like a Yamazaki single malt whisky but that doesn’t mean a whiskey investor should pass over our friends in the north.
One such blend is the 25-year-old Orphan Barrell Entrapment by the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company. Originally distilled by Crown Royal Distillery in the Manitoba wilderness in 1992, it’s made of a fermented grain mash of 97% corn and 3% malted barley.
Six bottles of Orphan Barrell Entrapment 25 year old that sold for $1,259 in March 2022.
The Orphan Barrell Distillery is a project of one of the biggest beverages company in the world, Diageo. Created in 2013, the company it sources orphaned whisky barrels—meaning ones not bottled or used before—for their blends. That means they don't actually distill it themselves, but source an odd-and-ends assortment of stock that's blended to create Orphan Barrel whiskey.
Originally an orphan stock, the Orphan Barrell Entrapment sells for an average price of $462. Six whiskies packed in an original case sold for $1,250 at Sotheby’s in March 2022, but individual bottles can go for as much as $600.
Are expensive whiskeys a good investment?
Are expensive whiskeys a good investment?
Whiskey has outperformed the S&P 500 for the past ten years, with a 437.1% return compared to the S&P 500's 169.7% return. In the past year alone, whiskey has risen 13.4% compared to the S&P 500's decline of 15.8%.
Whiskey returns versus the S&P 500 from Dec. 2012 to Oct. 2022.
While past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, whiskey tends to increase in value over time. It’s an alternative asset not linked to traditional markets and can hedge against inflation and volatility.
If you want to invest in a collection of whiskey bottles from exclusive labels like the Dalmore distillery or Craft Irish Whiskey, you can buy bottles directly from the producer or a store. However, you’ll need to make sure you store an expensive bottle properly and have a good understanding of the whiskey market.
Unlike investing in fine wine, whiskey is much easier to store and doesn’t need to be kept in a cellar like wine. If you want a more convenient way to invest, Vinovest procures and stores the bottles for you to make investing in luxury spirits accessible and hassle-free.
Platforms like Rally and Vint let you buy fractional shares in whiskey collections of individual bottles or collections of two bottles or even three bottles, so you can invest in more whiskey for less money. Whiskeyvest might be better if you want to own an expensive whisky that you can also drink but don't want to venture out on a bottle hunt.