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The Ultimate Guide To The Macallan 50 Year Old

The Macallan is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of luxury scotch whisky. The brand forged a path to luxury for other scotch whisky distilleries, repositioning its products in the eyes of the public to make Macallan scotch a luxury asset. 

The best way to do this is to release high-age statement stocks which is exactly what The Macallan did in 1983 with the release of The Macallan 1928 50 Year Old Anniversary Malt. 

Since then, The Macallan has released five more 50 year old whiskies, each with its own quirks, marketing strategies, and astonishing price tags. So, let’s take a look at every 50 year old whisky that The Macallan has ever bottled. 

Interested in learning about the oldest Macallan whisky ever bottled? Check out 5 Things You Didn’t Know About The Macallan Reach 81 Year Old

Why Is 50 Year Old Whisky So Rare? 

First, though, we need context for why 50 year old whisky is so scarce. There are a few reasons for this. 

Firstly, we must consider the ‘angel’s share’. When a whisky is maturing in a warehouse, a small percentage of the liquid inside (around 2% per year on average) is lost to evaporation. This is known as the ‘angel’s share’. This means that the amount of liquid in the cask is constantly decreasing, meaning that the eventual bottle yield will be much lower for a 50 year old cask than it would be for a 10 year old, for example. 

Additionally, the climate in Scotland (generally on the cooler side) means that alcohol evaporates from the cask more easily than water does. As such, the alcohol by volume (ABV, given in percentage) usually begins to decrease as the cask ages, on average 0.5% per year. Most casks are filled at between 63% and 69% ABV. So, aging a whisky for 50 years and keeping the ABV above that all-important 40% ABV is a huge challenge. It requires extremely careful cask management, and can sometimes involve reracking the whisky into a different cask. 

The above reasons mean that bottling a 50 year old single malt scotch whisky presents a logistical challenge for the distillery, and the decision to age a single malt up to half a century is not taken lightly. As such, the fact that The Macallan has no less than six 50 year olds under its belt is very impressive. 

Now, with that said, let’s take a look at the bottles. 

The Macallan 1928 50 Year Old Anniversary Malt – Released in 1983 

As mentioned above, the first 50 year old whisky to be released by The Macallan was the 1928 50 Year Old Anniversary Malt. The whisky was conceptualized by Marketing Director Hugh Mitcalfe, and Managing Director, William Phillips, who were at the forefront of the effort to reestablish The Macallan as a luxury brand. 

This 50 year old was released in 1983 as a one-off addition to the annual 25 Year Old Anniversary Malts release. Which anniversary was being celebrated, you ask? Well, none. The Anniversary Malts were named as such for a marketing ploy, encouraging whisky fans to purchase the ‘Anniversary Malts’ for occasions such as 25th birthdays and 25th wedding anniversaries. The same was true for the 50 year old. 

However, eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that the whisky was distilled in 1928 and bottled in 1983, making it 54 years old rather than 50. So, why wouldn’t The Macallan change the age statement to make it higher? Well, we can only assume that a 54-year age statement would not have jived with the aforementioned anniversary theme. 

Another interesting quirk with this bottle is the ABV, which stands at just 38.6% ABV. This is, of course, below the legal minimum of 40% ABV that a whisky must be in order to legally be classed as single malt scotch. However, at the time of bottling in 1983, the law was more relaxed. So, the whisky could be bottled at this strength. 

The whisky is presented in much the same way as the 25 Year Old Anniversary Malts; inside a wooden box and with the age statement in large lettering on the label. However, the ‘50’ is blue, whereas the 25-year age statement is red. 

Only 500 bottles of this elusive whisky were produced and priced at an incredible £50. Yes, just £50 for a 50 year old Macallan scotch whisky. I think it is safe to say that those days are long gone. The record price for this bottle at auction is £92,000, achieved at Whisky Auctioneer in 2020

The Macallan Millennium Decanter 50 Year Old – Released in 1999 

Next up on the list is The Macallan Millennium Decanter 50 Year Old, released by the distillery in August 1999. 

The whisky was distilled on January 14th, 1949, and bottled 50 years later, just before the world rang in the new millennium in 2000. Three Spanish oak ex-sherry casks were used to create the expression, with the casks being married together on May 12th, 1999 for a finishing period. 

Only 900 bottles were created and bottled at 43% ABV in Caithness crystal decanters with a stopper made from Macallan’s decommissioned No.9 still. 

This botting constitutes something of a step up in Macallan’s presentation of its 50 year old whisky. Whilst the 50 Year Old Anniversary Malt is a much older vintage, it was also released 16 years prior to the Millennium Decanter, and well before scotch whisky was widely considered a luxury asset. Perhaps, after testing the waters with the Anniversary Malts and other high-age-statement bottling such as the 1926 60 Year Olds, The Macallan doubled down on luxury presentation to elevate the standing of its old and rare stock. 

The most interesting quirk in this bottling is the apparent presence of peat. As the whisky was distilled just four years after the end of World War II, coal rationing was still in force. As such The Macallan found itself using a higher proportion of peat to dry the malted barley at its floor maltings, imparting a smoky flavor that is not usually found in Macallan single malts.

Despite the Millennium Decanter run consisting of 400 more bottles than the 50 Year Old Anniversary Malt, this bottle has always remained elusive on the secondary market. The record auction price for this bottle stands at £46,163.20, achieved at Sotheby’s Asia in April 2023

The Macallan 1952 50 Year Old Fine & Rare – Released in 2002 

2002 was a very important year for The Macallan brand, as this was the year in which the distillery launched the Fine & Rare Series. Today, The Macallan Fine & Rare series constitutes the largest collection of vintage statement single malts from a single distillery. 

The collection consists of over 50 vintage whiskies dating all the way back to 1926, showcasing the sheer range of vintages produced at the distillery. According to former Director of The Macallan, David Cox: “The concept was simply to introduce a new “vintage” each year, continuing to build a vintage range unsurpassed in the industry. That is still the objective and The Macallan now has a “library” of old and rare vintage releases to match some of the finest wines.” 

Each bottling in the Fine & Rare Collection is presented in the same way; with a label and wooden box displaying the vintage, and the age statement written on the neck. 

The Macallan 1952 50 Year Old Fine & Rare was released at the very start of the collection, having been bottled from single cask #627. One of the most interesting things about this bottle is the astonishingly high ABV of 50.8%. If we assume that The Macallan fills its casks at 63.5% ABV, which is the most common fill strength in the industry, then the whisky only lost 12.7% ABV in 50 years of maturation. Now that is impressive cask management! 

The current auction record for The Macallan 1952 50 Year Old Fine & Rare is £26,000, achieved at Whisky Auctioneer in April 2022

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention The Macallan 1926 60 Year Old Fine & Rare, previously the most expensive whisky in the world. The record was recently broken by the same whisky but in a different bottle, with a label design by Valerio Adami. You can learn more about the 1926 60 Year Olds here

The Macallan 50 Year Old in Lalique, Six Pillars – Released in 2005 

One of many collaborations with crystal makers, Lalique, this Macallan 50 Year Old was released in 2005 in a stunning decanter with a matching stopper and sleek, leather presentation case. This release constitutes a step up in Macallan’s alignment with luxury, as it sees the first collaboration involved in the creation of a 50 year old whisky. 

The collaboration was part of The Macallan’s Six Pillars Collection, celebrating the six core principles of Macallan’s whisky-making that they believe set them apart from other scotch whisky distilleries. The Six Pillars are: Exceptional Oak Casks, Spiritual Home, Curiously Small Stills, Finest Cut, Natural Colour, and Peerless Spirit.

One decanter was released for each of the six pillars over a period of 11 years. This particular release celebrates Macallan’s ‘Exceptional Oak Casks’, as is emulated by the wood-grain design of the decanter. 

In contrast to the previous 50 year olds, the Macallan in Lalique does not have a vintage statement. However, as it has an age statement of 50 years, we can safely say that the youngest whisky in the bottle was distilled in 1955 and bottled at 46% following maturation in sherry casks. 

As with the above 50 year olds, this release was strictly limited; just 470 decanters were produced. With only 37 results at auction since 2005, this is another high-age-statement rarity. The record auction price for this bottle currently stands at £110,000, achieved at Whisky Auctioneer in December 2018

The Macallan 50 Year Old – Released in 2018 

The next Macallan 50 Year Old was released in an integral year for the distillery. 2018 saw the reopening of the brand new Macallan Distillery, a subterranean architectural masterpiece that blends into the surrounding landscape on the banks of the River Spey. Arguably, 2018 signaled the real shift into luxury for The Macallan and, in celebration, a number of impressive bottlings were released. 

This Macallan 50 Year Old was matured in European oak sherry seasoned casks and bottled at 44% ABV. At the time, Master Distiller Nick Savage said: “After being left to mature for half a century in our exceptional Sherry-seasoned oak casks, this wonderfully rare single malt is full of rich flavour and beautiful natural colour.” 

Alongside the opening of the new distillery, 2018 also saw a major rebrand for The Macallan. As a result, this 50 year old is presented in a stunning oak case etched with The Macallan logo, and the famous Easter Elchies House. 

Only 200 bottles were produced, and the current auction record stands at £70,000, achieved at Scotch Whisky Auctions in August 2019

The Macallan 50 Year Old Red Collection – Released in 2020 

Finally, we come to the most recent 50 year old from The Macallan: the Red Collection. 

The Macallan Red Collection was unveiled in 2020, and featured six high-age-statement whiskies ranging from 40 years old to (a wildly impressive) 78 years old. 

Centered around the color red, and all that it has meant to The Macallan, the Red Collection evokes images of some of the distillery’s most famous bottlings such as the Handwritten Labels (with their iconic red ribbons) and the 25 Year Old Anniversary Malts (with the red ‘25’s). 

The color red also calls back to Macallan’s proprietor, Roderick Kemp, who used the color to distinguish his brand in a rapidly growing market. In addition to this, the surname of the distillery’s founder, Alexander Reid, literally translates to “the red”. 

And, of course, the color red also signifies the famed sherry casks that the distillery uses to create its whisky. 

The Macallan 50 Year Old Red Collection was bottled at 45.1% ABV and presented in a heavy-bottomed, premium-feel glass bottle. The presentation is completed by an oak box upholstered with fine Scottish leather from Bridge of Weir Leather. 

At the time of writing, the auction record for the Macallan 50 Year Old Red Collection is £52,000, achieved at Whisky Auctioneer in October 2020

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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