A Rare Bottle of Whisky Adorned By Pop Artist Valerio Adami Sells for $2.6 Million

The Macallan Adami whisky set a new benchmark for single bottle of wine or spirit.

Macallan Adami 1926. Photo by Tristan Fewings / Getty Images for Sotheby's.

Only 40 bottles of Macallan Adami whisky were bottled in 1986. The whisky had already been ageing in casks for 60 years, making it the oldest vintage ever produced by Macallan. Among those bottles, just 12 featured labels designed by Italian Pop artist Valerio Adami, two of which have since been consumed or destroyed.

One of the remaining ten bottles broke the record for the highest price paid for a single bottle of wine or spirits at auction, selling for £2.1 million ($2.6 million) including buyer’s premium on November 19 at Sotheby’s in London. The bottle had an estimate price of £750,000 to £1.2 million ($941,000 to $1.5 million) and is the first whisky in history to surpass £2 million ($2.5 million) at auction. Ahead of the sale, the bottle was reconditioned by the distillery, having its cork replaced and label re-adhered.

Valero Adami was born in 1935 and educated at Milan’s Accademia di Brera. In the early parts of his seven-decade career, he created works in expressionist and cloisonnist styles, inspired by Chilean artist Roberto Matta and French Post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin. He is best known for his Pop art work, featuring bold flat color, fragmented images, and dark outlines, influenced by the advertising work of Roy Lichtenstein. The label Adami designed for Macallan in the 1980s features his characteristic black outlines, showing a nude figure looking at a bottle of Macalllan whisky, which also features the same figure on its label.

Macallan Adami 1926. Photo by Tristan Fewings / Getty Images for Sotheby's.

Macallan Adami 1926. Photo by Tristan Fewings / Getty Images for Sotheby’s.

Adami’s collaboration with the whisky giant began 40 years ago when Armando Giovanetti—Macallan’s Italian agent at the time—suggested the partnership as part of Macallan’s Fine and Rare series. Five editions of the Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old were released, the first 12 featuring labels created by Pop art legend Peter Blake. Following Adami’s edition, one bottle was commissioned and offered for sale by Fortnum and Mason in 1999, hand-painted by Irish artist Michael Dillon depicting Macallan’s Easter Elchies House in the Scottish highlands.

But it is Macallan Adami whisky, first released in 1993, which is deemed one of the most desirable bottles in the world, and Saturday’s result surpassed another bottle of Macallan 1926—from the very same cask, Number 263—as the record-holder. In fact, the record was broken three times between 2018–2019, each time by a bottle of Macallan 1926. Demonstrating the whisky’s appeal, earlier this month an empty display case for Macallan Adami was purchased on eBay for £200 ($250), but has since been valued at £138,000 ($173,000).

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