Is This The Most Costly Whisky Ever? Ardbeg Simply Bought a Single Cask From 1975 for HK$149 million

The global economy as a whole may be struggling, but the red-hot rare whiskey market hasn’t seemed to care. Granted, the record for most expensive whisky cask— a Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old Scotch that sold for about US$1.9 million (HK$14.9 million) — hasn’t been toppled since 2019. But other records have continued to fall. Earlier this year, a debate even ensued over who holds the record for most expensive cask ever sold at auction. In April, Whiskey Hammer claimed their US$1.3 million (HK$10 million ) sale set a new record, baulking at the idea that a cask sold back in October for U$2.3 million (HK$18 million) should count because the lot included an NFT.

Most expensive whisky? Ardbeg sells 1975 whisky cask for US$19 Million (HK$149 Million)

But today, Ardbeg has announced a sale that appears to blow these previous cask records out of the water: The Islay-based Scotch brand has sold a cask, known as Cask No. 3, for €16 million (KH$129 million) — or about US$19 million (HK$14.9 Million)— at least eight times higher than any previous claim.

Now, Ardbeg’s sale comes with some important caveats. The brand says it was a private sale to an anonymous collector brokered through the Moet Hennessy Private Client and prestige sales teams. Private sales don’t have to be disclosed — or have their price scrutinised on the open market like auctions — which makes claiming this record trickier. Still, US$19 million (HK$14.9 Million) is a massive number in Scotch sales.

“Based on publicly available figures for sales at auction, we believe this is a record for the sale of an individual cask of single malt,” a spokesperson for Ardbeg told me. “It’s certainly the most expensive we have ever sold and — while we don’t have access to information on private sales by competitors all — the publicly available information suggests it is a category record.”

So what makes this Ardbeg cask worth 14 times more than the Macallan cask sold back in April? As is often the case, scarcity is important, and this 1975 cask survived a very turbulent time in Ardbeg’s history. Established in 1815, Ardbeg was one of many distilleries that struggled to stay afloat during Scotch’s lean years in the 1970s and ’80s. The brand sold most of its stock for blending in the ’70s and then closed for the first time in 1981. It reopened later that decade before shuttering again in 1996. Finally, in 1997, Glenmorangie purchased the distillery and nursed it back to its current health.

most expensive whisky
Image Credit: Courtesy of Ardbeg

Due to all of that turmoil, this over 46-year-old cask — which contains 440 bottles’ worth of Scotch — is being billed as the oldest Ardbeg Scotch ever released, and one that “cannot be replicated for at least a decade.”

“Just 25 years ago, Ardbeg was on the brink of extinction, but today it is one of the most sought-after whiskies in the world,” CEO Thomas Moradpour stated in the announcement. “This sale is a source of pride for everyone in the Ardbeg community who has made our journey possible.”

Ardbeg says the plan is for the distillery to hold onto the cask — which contains whisky distilled on November 25, 1975 — and package 88 bottles every near for the next five years on behalf of the private owner, resulting in a what they described as a “unique vertical series of rare Ardbegs from 1975, aged 46, 47, 48, 49, and 50 years old.”

most expensive whisky
Image Credit: Courtesy of Ardbeg

“Cask No. 3 is an extraordinary taste of Ardbeg’s past,” explained Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of whisky creation. “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. And its complex flavours are testament to the extraordinary skill of the Ardbeg team who have cared for it over the decades. I look forward to exploring how it continues to evolve over the next five years.”

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(Credit for the hero and Featured Image: Courtesy of Ardbeg)

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