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Scotch Whisky Legends: Macallan 1938 Handwritten Label

This week on Scotch Whisky Legends, I take a deep dive into the Macallan 1938 Handwritten Label. The 1938 is one of the highest-rated Macallans on the whisky review site, WhiskyFun, receiving 96 points from respected reviewer, Serge Valentin.

So, let’s take a look at what makes the Macallan 1938 Handwritten Label so special.

To catch up on the previous installments of Scotch Whisky Legends, click here.

The Macallan Handwritten Labels

Macallan’s Handwritten Label series is instantly recognizable by the rustic, script-style label and the red ribbon secured by a wax seal.

There are five bottles in the famous Macallan Handwritten Label series, each from a different vintage. The collection comprises a 1938 vintage, a 1940, a 1950, a 1957, and a 1973.

1973 is the rarest vintage in the collection, with a very limited number of bottles created exclusively for the Opimian Society in Canada. 1938, of course, is the oldest vintage in the series. As such, the whisky in this bottle was distilled just one year before the start of World War II. It is a true whisky time capsule.

The Macallan 1938 Handwritten Label was bottled between 1980 and 1983, and the bottle that Serge Valentin sampled was specifically for the French market. Additionally, there are many of these bottles that we destined for importation to other countries such as Italy (Rinaldi) and Belgium (Werco). The whisky is at 43% ABV, and the bottle is 75cl.

The series was one of Macallan’s earliest ventures in bottling its own single malts. Previously, Macallan had been bottled by Gordon & Macphail and Campbell, Hope & King under license from the distillery.

Each bottle is individually numbered, making the series highly collectible.

As Macallan is, today, considered the pinnacle of luxury scotch whisky, old and rare bottlings such as this one are sought-after by whisky enthusiasts.

Serge Valentin’s Tasting Notes On The Macallan 1938 Handwritten Label

The 1938 Handwritten Label is an old and rare classic from the distillery.

WhiskyFun’s Serge Valentin tasted the Macallan 1938 Handwritten Label in November 2007 at Harry’s Bar in Paris. He enjoyed the whisky so much that he was almost inclined to profanity in his tasting notes:

This one should be roughly 45 years old and has been opened for ‘the Austrians’ and yours truly at Paris’ Harry’s Bar. Yippee!

Colour: gold/amber.

Nose: oh well… this is, I mean, just amazing. Incredible smokiness and a full tanker of acacia honey as well as lilac, beeswax and leather polish. Goes on and on… ripe apricots, flower nectar, Seville oranges, orange syrup, whiffs of seawater… Absolutely exceptional. Gets smokier with time (Havana smoke). Hints of apple peelings. This nose just leaves me speechless (who said good news?)

Mouth: amazingly lively, nervous, fruity…Apricot jam, ripe plums, chestnut honey, toasted brioche, high-grade pepper… Totally fantabulous. I’m afraid the rest will be censored by our anti-maltoporn police department. […]- 96 points.” – Serge Valentin,, 2007 

The Price of The Macallan Handwritten Label

The Macallan Handwritten Labels are almost guaranteed to cause a stir at auction. This is partly because the series is very collectible, with people often looking to fill gaps in their collection.

The average price at the time of writing for a Macallan 1938 Handwritten Label at auction is £8,000-£12,000. Moreover, the record price for one of these bottles at auction is £13,100, achieved at Whisky Auctioneer in February 2019.

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Beth Squires

Beth joined Mark Littler Ltd full-time in October 2020 following the completion of her university degree. Since then she has gained wide-ranging knowledge of all things whisk(e)y, and has written extensively for both company and external publications. Beth is passionate about industry innovation, marketing, and sustainability. With a particular affinity for independently bottled rare scotch, Beth is also a whisky bottle investment specialist.

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