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Bottle of whisky sells for record US$1.1m

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In Scotland, you can buy a 16th-century castle for a little more than a million dollars.

[LONDON] In Scotland, you can buy a 16th-century castle for a little more than a million dollars.

On Wednesday, someone paid a similar amount, a record of just over US$1.1 million, for a 750-millilitre bottle of single malt whisky described as "the Holy Grail" of the dark alcoholic spirit.

The 60-year-old Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 is "one of the rarest and most desirable bottles ever produced", according to a specialist at Bonhams, the auction house in Scotland that made the sale. The price included a bid of £700,000 (S$1.3 million) plus a £148,000 sales premium.

The identity of the private buyer was not revealed. But a Bonhams spokesman said the person was from Asia and had made the bid by phone.

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The bottle was put up for sale in Edinburgh, sitting atop a stand covered in tartan and encased in a specially designed cabinet.

Its value emanates in part from its label. The Macallan, a Scottish distillery, commissioned the pop artist Valerio Adami to design a label for the whisky, which was bottled in 1986 after ageing 60 years.

Another factor in the single malt's value is its rarity. Only 24 bottles of the Scotch were produced — 12 with labels by Adami and 12 with labels by another pop artist, the Englishman Peter Blake — and no one knows exactly how many remain.

One of the bottles with Adami's distinctive black-and-white design is rumoured to have been destroyed in an earthquake in Japan in 2011. It is thought that at least one other may have been opened and drunk.

That raises the question: How does a US$1 million bottle of whisky taste? For one expert, the Macallan Valerio Adami 1926's flavor may not quite match its hefty price tag.

"When I tasted it, the whisky was quite intense, dry, and tasted of dried fruit with some hint of warming spice," said David Robertson, a master distiller at the Macallan from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. "But I had to try a lot of whiskies over the years and in my humble opinion, there were a number that were better."

"It would be great to think that the whisky could be opened by the buyer," Mr Robertson added. "That is what it was produced for. But for some people, opening a US$1.1 million bottle of whisky is quite a big decision."

The sale is the second time this year that a bottle of whisky has gone for a record amount. In May, a bottle from the Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 edition fetched HK$8.6 million (S$1.5 million) at Bonhams in Hong Kong.

If the new buyer chooses to preserve the bottle untouched, the fate of the world's most expensive bottle of vodka serves as a cautionary tale.

The gold and silver bottle, with its diamond-encrusted cap, which was said to be worth US$1.3 million, was stolen from a bar in Copenhagen in January.

After days of searching, police found the bottle dented — and empty.

NYTIMES