News & Insights

The Macallan 'Private Eye'

3rd February 2022. By William McNab

The Macallan ‘Private Eye’ is one of the most collectable bottles of whisky available at auction today. Bottled in 1996 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the satirical current affairs magazine Private Eye and cleverly marketed, Macallan ‘Private Eye’ has greatly increased in value since it was released, and now commands prices at auction in excess of £3,500 (plus buyer’s premium).

Produced as a limited-edition release of 5000 bottles, The Macallan ‘Private Eye’ was bottled using Macallan Single Malt Whisky distilled in the year of the magazine’s founding - 1961. Each bottle is numbered in gold below the label, and whilst the number of the bottle is of little significance to buyers, a small premium may be paid for bottles with interesting numbers such as 111, 3333 or indeed 1961.

Satirical illustrator and cartoonist Ralph Steadman was commissioned to create the colourful and eye-catching label, featuring a kilted Scotsman clutching a bottle of Macallan. Steadman, who was a long-term friend and collaborator of Hunter S. Thompson, was a regular contributor to Private Eye. The label to the reverse of the bottle, by contrast, is barely visible; with black print on a clear backing, it disappears into the dark whisky in order not to detract from the main image on the front. The bottle is topped with a matt black capsule top, with thin gold line at the bottom. However, a small run of bottles was produced with a gold capsule, which were retailed exclusively through Fortnum and Masons.

After retailing for £36 when it was released, a successful marketing campaign saw the limited edition run of bottles sell quickly, and once they began emerging onto the secondary market a steady rise was seen. By 2015/2016 bottles were selling at auction in the region of £1,000 but rose rapidly to peak around £4,000 in 2020. Bottles are currently available at specialist retailers at around the £5,000 mark, however, auction prices are usually more attractive to buyers but generate competitive bidding, and buyers should remember to factor in premium.

Recently I was entertained by a story about The Macallan ‘Private Eye’ from one of my clients: “There was a campaign in the Telegraph some 20 years ago offering bottles at around £70 - but only one purchase per household was allowed. However, we managed to get hold of two by using a work address and swiftly drank one!” The client assured me it was one of the nicest whiskies he had tried, and he subsequently sold the other bottle with Tennants 11 or 12 years ago for £850 (plus buyer’s premium). The rise in price has been steady but constant over the years since its release, indicating this could be a bottle to look out for in the future as one of Macallan’s most successful releases for the secondary market.

As with everything at auction, condition remains a strong factor in determining price. Bottles should be stored in a cool place, not too dry, and away from direct sunlight. Unlike wine, whisky should be stored upright and turned every couple of months to prevent excess evaporation, and the level in the bottle should sit in the widest part of the neck. Care should be taken to prevent scuffing to label or capsule.

The Macallan ‘Private Eye’ demonstrates both the power of the Macallan brand, and the demand for rare collectable bottles of whisky.


Do you have whisky to sell? Simply contact specialist William McNab  or submit an Online Valuation.



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