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Most Expensive bottle of whiskey in the world is Irish, or is it?

Most Expensive bottle of whiskey in the world is Irish, or is it?

Successful American pharmaceutical entrepreneur Mike Daley set a new benchmark for super premium whiskey investment. Putting his money where his mouth is to support his belief that “Irish whiskey is the future” Daley spent $2.8 Million on The Craft Irish Whiskey Co’s The Emerald Isle. This beat out the previous record of $2.7 Million for a bottle of The Macallan 1926. This is momentous news for Irish whiskey as a sector, as it shows that Irish whiskey can go toe to toe with Scotch amongst serious collectors and hold its own.

However, this news is more nuanced than that I feel. I personally, as a serious whiskey enthusiast and drinker, am no great fan of The Macallan, I feel that they release too many high price whiskies without age statement, relying overly on marketing and name recognition. I also think that with an annual production of 16 million litres there isn’t the scarcity to command such a high price or be truly collectable. I know that these feelings don’t truly matter when it is one of the best performing whiskey brands, especially for collectors, but a man has to have his principles and one of mine is that good whiskey should have substance to their story and bring more to the table than a world class marketing department. However, this curmudgeonly opinion doesn’t extend to the Macallan 1926. A 60-year-old single malt from a single barrel from a very well-known distillery is incredibly rare and collectable, even the thought of it is enough to send a little tingle of pleasure down my spine. Added to this is the fact that it was distilled between the two world wars and the outturn of bottles was only 40. Within the Whisky world it is a holy relic and I totally understand the price this bottle commands at auction.

Let us compare this to The Emerald Isle. The whiskey here is 30 years old, half the age of the Macallan. And it comes from…… it doesn’t say. In the world of Scotch a 30-year-old whisky without a disclosed distillery would be hard to sell for more than a few hundred pounds, let alone the millions this Irish commanded, so what makes it different?

First, I wanted to work out what whisky was actually in the bottle of The Emerald Isle. Is it important? Probably not, but as the proud owner of a deer stalker hat it is my duty to do some Holmesian sleuthing every now and again. Now, it being 30 years old means it was distilled in the early 1990’s which gives us a choice of 3 distilleries (New Middleton, Old Bushmills, and Cooley), It being a single malt narrows our choice down to two (New Middleton only makes Single Pot Still and Grain), and my knowledge of who was selling casks to private ownership at the time means that this is almost certainly a Cooley. 30-year-old Cooley when you can disclose the name does not go for anywhere near the price of a 30-year-old Macallan, let alone a 60-year-old, so what gives? The real value of this release however comes from its partnership with luxury brand Fabergé. The Walnut box is inset with gold and emeralds, and contains a Fabergé egg, a 24k gold watch, and 2 Cuban cigars. Slightly more bang for your buck than the unadorned bottle of very old Macallan, but the Macallan didn’t need to rely on bells and whistles to achieve its record-breaking price. Maybe its not fair to say that the most expensive whiskey in the world currently is Irish, because it feels like the focus of this sale is not the whiskey, but the luxury surrounding it. However, this still feels like a huge win for Irish whiskey. A bold indicator for the future of the Irish whiskey sector. And a serious endorsement of its potential and its future. A true testament to the belief that if you can release a whisky rare enough, there is no upper limit to what people are willing to spend.