The Most Expensive Scotch Whiskies

And you thought the bourbon market was pricey.

collage of three scotch bottles
Highland Park Whisky, Bowmore, The Macallan

For whiskey connoisseurs, the past decade has been both a delight and a challenge. On the one hand, a massive uptick in interest in popularity means the market is more awash in options than ever, with whiskey makers getting more experimental and continuing to find new ways to innovate and push the boundaries of the spirit with unique barrel finishes and limited single-barrel runs and more. On the other hand, this renewed interest has set the market on fire, and there's now a seemingly never-ending race to the top when it comes to just how high whiskey prices can climb.

Often, when speaking about the 21st century's obsession with whiskey and the accompanying explosion in the marketplace, the discussion tends to center around bourbon. And rightfully so, as bourbon used to be viewed as "cheap" whiskey but these days, it's harder than not to find a bourbon that isn't marketed as premium. But Scotch has not been spared from the world's renewed appetite for whiskey (or, in Scotch's case, whisky). The spirit, which has long been viewed as a more upscale beverage, has similarly seen prices reach stratospheric levels. Whether being sold at auction for seven figures or being stickered with SRPs containing five or six digits, the most expensive Scotches almost make the priciest bourbons look cheap.

The most expensive Scotch whisky ever sold

a bottle of whiskey on a table
The Macallan 1926 is considered the world’s most valuable whisky.

While there are numerous records relating to the most expensive whisky ever sold — whether it's a single bottle, a cask, a private sale, etc. — it is generally accepted that the most expensive Scotch is The Macallan 1926. Just 40 bottles of the then-60-year-old spirit were bottled by the acclaimed Speyside distillery in 1986, at the time making it Macallan's oldest-ever release. Three of the ultra-rare and sought-after bottles hit the auction block between 2018 and 2019, with each one breaking the record for not only the most expensive bottle of Scotch ever sold at auction, but the most expensive bottle of any spirit or wine, period. The highest total came from a "Fine & Rare" version of The Macallan 1926, which was auctioned off by Sotheby's in 2019 for $1.9 million (£1.5 million). But records are meant to be broken, and Sotheby's has another bottle of Macallan 1926 hitting the block this month — and it's the first one to have undergone reconditioning by the distillery before heading to auction.

But if you don't have $2 million lying around to bid on a bottle of The Macallan 1926, don't worry. There are still plenty of other expensive Scotches on the market that can (theoretically) be picked up for the low, low retail price of several tens of thousands of dollars — if you're well-connected enough. This is not an exhaustive list, but below are some of the most expensive bottles of Scotch currently on the market.

Retail Price: $54,000

Highland Park Whisky

Highland Park 54 Year Old

This incredibly rich and complex scotch is Highland Park's oldest offering to date. In 2008, Highland Park's Master Whiskey Maker Gordon Motion selected 10 refill casks that were filled in 1968 — filled with light, fragrant, incredible Scotch. He added that whisky to first-fill sherry-seasoned casks for another 14 years and then released 225 bottles. Each bottle is held in a handmade box designed to reference the layers of sandstone on the Orkney Islands. Our tester had a chance to taste the 54-year — after trying the increasingly nuanced 25-, 30-, and 40-year offerings.

a glass of scotch
Unsurprisingly, this half-century-old whisky has legs that stick around for a long, long time.
John Zientek

The 54 was in another ballpark. The 14-year sherry finish on top of an already incredible 40-year spirit made a special whisky that managed to be both deep and nuanced. "The flavors have become so concentrated, so intense," Highland Park's master whiskey maker Gordon Motion says. "I pick up loads of lychee, rose as well, woody spices like ground cumin and ground coriander. And of course these dark fruits — a really intense flavor." Other notes include camphor, jasmine, kiwi, pistachio biscotti and fenugreek. The long finish is incredibly smooth with wisps of smoke and a honey-like mouthfeel. It's ethereal and sublime — and priced as such.

Retail Price: $75,000


Bowmore ARC-52

When one of the most high-end Scotch brands teams up with one of the world's most exclusive automakers, you know the result will be both special and astronomically priced. Both of those words are perfect descriptors for last year's whisky collab between Bowmore and Aston Martin. Dubbed ARC-52, an admittedly strange name for a Scotch, this superlative liquid spent 52 years aging in a mix of sherry butts and American oak ex-bourbon hogshead casks. Our tester found the quinquagenarian single malt to be surprisingly light for a whisky of this vintage, as he could pick up fresh tropical notes that conjured images of palm trees swaying in the breeze. Most interestingly, the closest taste analogy he could come up with was a childhood memory of his first time tasting a mango Starburst candy — though your mileage may vary.

a person holding a glass of whisky
ARC-52 is surprisingly light and tropical-tasting, according to our tester.
Will Sabel Courtney

Like many of the world's most expensive whiskies, part of the experience — and a sometimes significant cost driver — is the vessel in which the whisky is sold. Aston Martin's designers helped craft the unique, beautiful, aerodynamic bottle of the ARC-52, and the bottle itself hides a little secret. The metal lid is affixed to the glass base via a magnet, which is unlocked via an Aston Martin key fob-like device when held up to the bottle. "It's the first bottle of whisky I've ever seen with keyless entry," our tester jokes. 100 bottles of the whisky were produced, with half being sold in 2022 and the rest in 2023.

Read our full review of Bowmore ARC-52 here.

Retail Price: $100,000

The Glen Grant

The Glen Grant Devotion

There are a few things you'll notice about the world's most expensive Scotch whiskies. They are all exceedingly rare. They are pretty much always among the oldest expressions ever released by their respected distilleries. They are often sold in a custom decanter that doubles as a work of art. And they are sometimes crafted in honor of some event. In the case of The Glen Grant's Devotion, it's all four. Released in the fall of 2023, there are just seven bottles of Devotion worldwide. It is The Glen Grant's oldest-ever release at 70 years old, and it's sold in a hand-blown, silver-capped, jewel-like decanter enveloped in a wooden sculpture that was handcrafted from fallen elm tree found within the distillery's gardens. Oh, and the whole thing was created to honor the seven-decade reign of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

As for the liquid itself, it's a single-cask single malt that was poured into an Oloroso sherry-seasoned French oak butt over a year into Queen Elizabeth II's reign on September 1st, 1953 at The Glen Grant distillery in Speyside. Bottled at 111 proof, the whiskey has a deep, deep chestnut color and dark flavors of dried fruits, raisins, sultana and dry spice, according to the brand, making it the sherry bomb to end all sherry bombs. The first bottle was auctioned off by Sotehby's for just over $101,000, with proceeds being donated to the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. The remaining six decanters are for sale for a comparative steal to enquiring buyers, priced at an even $100,000.

Retail Price: $125,000

The Macallan

The Macallan The Reach

The Macallan is the King of Expensive Scotch. Several of the world record holders, including the reigning champ The Macallan 1926, have come from the Speyside distillery. And while The Macallan has long been a darling of the collector set, the first name in luxury whisky has really upped it game in recent years with a limited release after limited release, each one older, rarer and more expensive than the last. The Red Collection, the Fine and Rare Collection ... just over the past handful of years, these series have released several bottles ranging in age from 40 to 78 years old.

But in 2022, The Macallan outdid itself by releasing not only its oldest whisky ever, but the oldest whisky ever bottled by anyone. At 81 years old going into the bottle, The Macallan The Reach was special even for a Macallan. The whisky was distilled in 1940 during World War II — shortly before the conflict caused the distillery temporarily close for the first time ever — and wouldn't see the light of day again until its 2021 bottling. It comes from a single sherry-seasoned cask, with a comparatively high 288 bottles available. Each bottle is held aloft by a somewhat creepy sculpture depicting a trio of bronze hands sculpted by Scottish artist Saskia Robinson. The 83.2-proof whisky boasts a palate of treacle toffee, bramble jam, licorice, crystalized ginger, nutmeg, charred pineapple, pecans and woodsmoke, according to The Macallan.

Retail Price: $145,000

The Balvenie

The Balvenie Sixty

Like The Macallan, The Balvenie is another Scotch distillery known for big age statements and exorbitant prices (almost any whisky brand that starts its name with "The" is guilty of this). Spanning an even six decades from entering the cask to the bottle, this 60-year-old single malt represents the oldest release from The Balvenie yet. It's a single cask release, with said cask being a European Hogshead cask, which yielded a grand total of 71 bottles for worldwide distribution at an eye-popping $145,000 a pop.

In addition to being its oldest-ever release, The Sixty holds extra special significance for the brand as it was released in honor of 60 years of service by David C. Stewart, who began working for The Balvenie's parent company William Grant & Sons as an apprentice in 1962 before becoming its malt master in 1974 — a title he still holds, making him the longest-serving malt master in the history of the industry. The 84.8-proof Scotch tastes of rich toffee and oak, says the distillery, and is sold in a glass, gold and brass vessel casing chronicling some of Stewart's many achievements.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Whiskey