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What is the Oldest Whiskey in the World? Answered (2023)

Last Updated on December 28, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Speaking of the oldest type of whiskey ever released, Scotch holds the crown. Scotland’s whisky production is decades ahead of other countries’ distilleries.  

Hence, it’s not surprising that Scottish spirits lead the list of the world’s oldest whisky ever released. 

The longer the whiskey has been aged, the more flavor and depth it exhibits. So what is the oldest whiskey?

Let’s uncover the oldest expressions and how much these exclusive spirits are now.  

What’s the Oldest Whiskey Released? 

close up shot of Macallan The Reach 81-Year-Old bottle

Macallan “The Reach” 81-Year-Old single malt is now the oldest whisky ever released. It was distilled beginning in 1940, during World War II. 

It was created and matured in a single, sherry-seasoned oak cask, filling only 288 artisanal decanters. 

Each decanter is propped up in a bronze sculpture of three hands, which is the creation of sculptor Saskia Robinson. 

This speaks for The Macallan’s history and its hand in crafting this prized spirit.  

Who Made It?

The Macallan Distillery has crafted, distilled, aged, bottled, and released the world’s oldest-known whiskey in the industry.

They introduced the bottles in February 2022. 

How Much Is The Oldest Whisky Worth?

close up shot of Macallan 81-Year-Old single malt bottle

Since there are only 288 bottles of Macallan Reach, each decanter costs around $125,000. 

But the first bottle was auctioned by Sotheby, a US-based auction house, for $340,000 in October 2022. 

Then, bottle number 3 was also put to auction by The Macallan (via Sotheby) to collect funds for The Macallan Artisan Apprenticeship Fund. 

“Freedom and Whisky gang thegither!”

— Robert Burns, Scottish Poet

The winning bidder will receive a one-of-a-kind small bronze sculpture and have a chance to visit The Macallan Estate. 

6 Oldest Whiskies In the World 

6. Macallan 72 Year Old in Lalique

man holding a bottle of Macallan 72 Year Old in Lalique

It’s no secret that The Macallan is one of Scotland’s most prestigious whisky producers. 

With a name like Lalique, combined with the oldest known distillation by the company, you can be sure that this is something truly special.

To celebrate the opening of its new facility in Lalique, The Macallan released 600 bottles of its 72-Year-Old in limited quantities. 

The bottles were crafted to mark the occasion, the most notable being the “Genesis” decanter, inspired by the building’s architecture.

Each bottle sold for around $60,000.

5. Macallan 74 Year Old 

Macallan 74 Year Old Bottle with Wooden Box

The launch of The Macallan’s Red Collection in 2020 caught the public’s attention. It featured six bottles aged from 40 – 78 years old. 

These limited-edition bottles were designed to celebrate the natural variety of reds in the company’s whisky.

The various expressions were matured in oak barrels under the supervision of several generations of whisky-makers. 

This 74-year-old Scotch was the second world’s oldest in the series, and each bottle was sold at around $79,500. 

4. Mortlach 75 Year Old 

Mortlach 75 Year Old and a glasses

The 2015 bottle release of the Mortlach 75-Year-Old was believed to be the oldest whisky ever distilled and bottled. 

This is part of Gordon and MacPhail’s Generation Series, which features some of the world’s longest-matured single malt whiskies.

In 1939, a single first-fill sherry butt was used to create 100 exquisite cut glass vessels.

Each piece was crafted with 75 multilevel cuts and sold at around $27,100. 

Now, this enviable whisky expression is more expensive than ever. 

3. Macallan 78 Year Old

Bottle of Macallan 78 Year in a wooden box

This 78-Year-Old is the oldest whisky in The Macallan’s Red Collection. 

The first bottle of The Macallan’s 78-Year-Old, released in 2020, was sold for over $125,000 in an auction. 

Only a few bottles of this deep amber color have been rendered for sale by the distillery since then.

Despite the initial success of this 78-Year-Old expression, it has not managed to achieve the high expectations of its first sale. 

In January 2022, the whisky auctioneer Whisky Hammer listed the last sale price of around $83,600.

2. Glenlivet 80 Year Old 

Bottle of Glenlivet 80 Year Old

MacPhail and Gordon could hold on to the world’s oldest known whisky, The Glenlivet 80-Year-Old, until The Macallan took it over. 

As part of the ‘Generation Series,” 250 bottles of the historic alcohol were produced from cask 340, which was used for the 2021 bottle release.

Designed by Sir David Adjaye, the elegant oak case and decanter featured striking architecture. 

The first 250 bottles of this collection were auctioned off at the Hong Kong branch of the auction house Sotheby in October 2021 at $192,475. 

All of the profits from the sale went to a Scottish charity, Trees for Life.

1. Macallan 81 Year Old 

The Macallan’s  81-year-old whisky Bottle

With an 81-year age statement, The Macallan 81-Year-Old is the oldest whisky to date. 

Distilled starting in 1940 during the revolutionary war, it spent 81 years raising character within a seasoned sherry cask before it was bottled.

This is the oldest whisky ever auctioned at $340,000. 

Named The Macallan “The Reach,” the age, provenance, and rarity of this unique release are some of the factors that have resulted in its spectacular effect.

This single malt bottle release from The Macallan Estate features a deep reddish-brown color with an immensely sweet and rich taste and a smoky finish. 

It was put to auction to support Macallan’s apprenticeship program. 

Fun Fact: Baker’s Pure Rye 1847 holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s oldest whiskey [1], distilled and bottled even before the civil war. This rye whiskey currently has a 175-year-old age statement.   

FAQs

What was the first whiskey ever made?

The first whiskey ever made was the Scottish Exchequer Rolls of 1494. It is referred to as the “Aqua Vitae,” which means water of life. 

It involves Friar John Cor, who provided eight boils (equivalent to six bushels) of malt, ordered by King James IV. 

What is the rarest whiskey?

The rarest whiskey is the Dalmore 64 Trinitas, a blended single malt Scotch containing a mix of spirits dating back to 1868 — 1939. 

Only three bottles were crafted and were put to auction. One bottle was sold to a private collection, the second to the Whiskey Exchange, and the last bottle was sold to an unknown bidder at around 100,000 euros.

What is Americas oldest whiskey?

America’s oldest whiskey is the Old Ingledew Whiskey, produced during the revolutionary war (between 1762–1802) [2]. 

It is believed that this is the only existing American whiskey of a trio from the cellar of JP Morgan. 

What’s the oldest whiskey distillery in the world?

The oldest whiskey distillery in the world is the Old Bushmills Distillery, where all the Bushmills spirits are made. 

With 1603 engraved on their bottles, they’re believed to be the oldest licensed distillery to operate, among other distilleries worldwide.  

Key Takeaways 

The whiskey (or whisky) industry has been in the making even before several wars occurred throughout history. 

No one can imagine that as the world progresses, hidden barrels containing premium liquids are aging and waiting to be seen by the public.  

The Macallan 81-Year-Old has been the title holder (as of now) as the oldest whisky ever bottled. 

Though it was auctioned at a very hefty price, it’s worth the money as it’s surely rare and carries the distilleries’ long and colorful history.  

References:

  1. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-whisky 
  2. https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/oldest-whiskey-auction-style-trnd/index.html 

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