View all newsletters
Latest in Luxury - Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Stefano Pileggi on Curating the World’s Rarest Spirits at Collezione

Collezione, on New York's Madison Avenue, offers insight into Stefano Pileggi's definition of luxury.

By Ella Danson

At Collezione, Stefano Pileggi brings his passion for rare whiskies and his unique perspective on genuine luxury. His boutique, nestled on Madison Avenue in New York City, is more than just a store; it’s a curated sanctuary for connoisseurs of fine spirits.

Pileggi provides bespoke experiences and personalized services that cater to his clientele’s unique tastes and preferences. Through meticulous curation, Pileggi has created a space where clients can discover, appreciate and indulge in the world’s finest whiskies.

Born in Italy, Pileggi is the third-generation member of a family deeply rooted in the luxury retail sector. His grandfather started with office supplies and his father expanded into office furniture. Eventually, the family ventured into luxury accessories opening a store in Italy that offered high-end items such as fountain pens, cigars, humidors, ties and champagne.

[See also: The 14 Best Restaurants in New York]

outside store collezione
Outside the Collezione boutique on Madison Avenue / © Collezione

Pileggi spent his childhood surrounded by luxury items which fuelled a passion for high-end objects. “I grew up seeing entrepreneurs, old guys wearing grey suits, beautiful watches, writing with the beautiful fountain pens, so I got passionate about what a gentleman wants,” he tells Elite Traveler, with his Italian roots obvious through his accent.

“I started collecting whisky when I was 16,” he recalls. “Not in drinking, but by how the bottle would look. An old friend told me about how, after certain dinners, a group of people would drink single malt Scotch. Italy in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s was one of the largest markets for, in this case, The Macallan. In Scotland, The Macallan was creating delicious juices back then. So for me, whisky was easy to be passionate about.”

The concept

The idea for Collezione came from Pileggi’s frustration with the existing luxury spirits market. He envisioned a space where buying a bottle of whisky could be as luxurious as buying a high-end watch or suit.

“I was buying in New York expensive bottles of whisky and I was not getting any experience at all. It was a very cold, ugly relationship between a client and a liquor store. When you go to buy your first Rolex, you sit in a room, you get a glass of champagne, and you talk with a knowledgeable person – you get an experience” 

At Collezione, Pileggi has redefined how luxury spirits are brought and enjoyed. Creating a boutique-like experience on Madison Avenue, where customers can relax, converse, and enjoy the collection. “I wanted to open a liquor store that doesn’t look like a liquor store, that gives you a different experience,” he says. “Now you feel like you’re going to a boutique.”

Content from our partners
A Taste of Europe with AmaWaterways
Elite Traveler Celebrates Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in Beverly Hills
Inside The Chateau, Nemacolin's Reimagined Centerpiece Hotel

[See also: Savile Row Tailor Richard Anderson on Outfitting New York]

Collezione offers a wide range of luxury spirits / ©Collezione

His vision has resonated with clients, even drawing in a new type of customer. “I have clients who have never been to a liquor store before,” he shares, highlighting the transformative impact Collezione has had on the market. “They finally feel comfortable enjoying and learning some things with me because we share a passion. They trust my expertise, and I understand their preferences. It’s like being their tailor, knowing their palate and choices.”

While the boutique primarily focuses on Scotch whisky, customers can also find a diverse range of spirits, including rare Japanese whisky, cognac, armagnac, port, tequila, vodka and grappa. “We try to carry a little bit of what our clients are looking for [like] some rare grappas and red rums. And if clients are looking for a specific spirit, I’m happy to use my connections to procure the bottle for them. 

“I started the store almost out of my full passion, so above all, it’s 90% oriented in Scotch and in products that I like. Slowly, I’m learning even through the customers that I’m meeting here in the store. So I taste them, and if I like them, I will put them on the display.”

[See also: Don Julio Offers Entire Casks of 1942 Tequila For the First Time]

Defining luxury

For Pileggi, true luxury in whisky is about rarity, craftsmanship and the ability to have a unique experience. He says: “Luxury is when you open a bottle and drink something very rare. You can walk to another place and say, ‘Oh, tonight I’ll drink that bottle from 1960 or that bottle from 1970.’ It gives you an almost irreplaceable experience.

“Today, on many new bottles, I don’t feel any luxury. It’s just expensive. Expensive doesn’t mean it’s luxury. There is no way you can get that handcraft, that craftsmanship. That’s what luxury is – it’s that human touch.

“Today, I can create a bottle of whisky and say, ‘Oh, it’s a $1m bottle of whisky.’ It’s bullshit, it’s not true luxury.”

rare whiskey bottle
Pileggi curates luxury whiskies from a variety of brands, like the Glenfiddich 30 Year Old from the Timeless Collection / © Collezione

It’s not just the prices going up, either. Pileggi believes the quality of today’s whisky is worse than it was in decades previous. “In the past, they were making things much, much better,” he says. “Just for the simple reason it was not mass-produced, the wood, the cask was much better. The way they were making the whisky was more for quality than quantity. Today, it’s a little bit more the opposite.” 

Pileggi has also picked up on the trend of what he refers to as silent luxury’ in whisky. “A real silent luxury is what you drink. Because once you open the bottle, and the bottle costs thousands of dollars, it’s gone,” he notes. “Before, whisky was better than a watch [in terms of rarity] because whisky drinkers drank it. A watch always stays on the wrist. If there are 10,000 watches, there will always be 10,000 watches. Whisky that was 500 bottles, in 10 years there will be 300 bottles.”

[See also: Midleton Very Rare Reveals Silent Distillery Chapter 5 Whiskey]

Curating the ‘Collezione’

Pileggi curates all of the products in his store, ensuring each item meets his high standards of quality and authenticity. Sourcing these rare items involves trusted relationships and an extensive network.

He says: “The very old stuff comes from private collectors, including myself. Every bottle of whisky I have right now in the store is personal; it’s seen by me. I don’t buy from auctions. I buy from collectors I know. At auctions, you don’t know what you’ll buy until you receive the bottle. I’m not saying I don’t trust auctions, but I don’t feel comfortable buying a bottle of whisky if I don’t see the paper. There are a lot of counterfeits, so you really need to be careful what you get. Sometimes it’s not only about the price; it’s about the quality of the bottle, above all if it’s a collectible bottle. You want to make sure the label is perfect, the packaging is perfect.” 

Pileggi prides himself on stocking multiple brands, a result of him curating on the quality and craftsmanship of whisky rather than its supposed collectability. “I’m not a brand ambassador of any of those distilleries, “he says. “And if that bottle I really believe is good, I put it for sale. If that bottle is from an important brand and I don’t think it’s good, I’m not trying to push it to my clientele because the brand is famous. If I really bring you that bottle of whisky, that vintage whisky, it’s because I know that whisky is phenomenal.”

[See also: The Peninsula London Launches The Macallan Red Collection]

The world’s rarest whiskies

rare macallan whiskey
The oldest whisky in the world: The Reach by The Macallan / ©Collezione

Collezione stocks some of the most sought-after spirits in the world, including rare and unusual bottles such as bottle No. 3 of the 60 Year Old from the Macallan Red Collection. He says: “Bottle No. 1 is at The Macallan, bottle No. 2 was auctioned for charity through Sotheby’s, but with a different label. So, bottle No. 3 is technically the lowest number a person can buy in the world.” The 60 Year Old is being sold alongside a 40 Year Old and 50 Year Old from the same collection, both with the same No. 3. And the price? “Here it’s like $600,000.”

His collection also boasts the oldest whisky in the world: The Reach by The Macallan. Released in 2022, the 81-year-old whisky is the holy grail for collectors. The Macallan released just 288 bottles, and Pileggi has two. You can buy one today, but it’ll cost you $500,000.

[See also: The Peninsula London Launches The Macallan Red Collection]

Among the numerous rare bottles Pileggi has encountered, one stands out. “The most memorable one is a Macallan made for the celebration of the royal marriage between Lady Diana and Prince Charles,” he recalled. “The Macallan combined two casks, one from 1948 and one from 1961, the birth years of Charles and Lady Diana. It was released in 1981 with just a few hundred bottles globally. That was my first ‘wow’ bottle.”

“Even today it’s a bottle that when I see it, those Macallans are like a piece of art, like the label, the style, the whisky, everything was perfect. You can see there was luxury in the bottle, even the calligraphy, it was everything” 

The Royal Marriage by The Macallan / ©Collezione

Unique client experiences

The focus on personalized service is a key aspect of Pileggi’s business model. By offering tailored experiences, Pileggi is able to build strong relationships with his clients.

“When clients come back and trust my recommendations of brands they didn’t even know existed, that’s the best reward,” he says. “They know I’m offering my expertise and genuine love for whisky. They trust my suggestion. And when that suggestion costs tens of thousands of dollars, it’s a big trust they’re giving you.”

“It’s almost like going to your tailor the tailor who knows everything about you — your body shape, the size and what kind of fabric you like. They call me for everything they need. I understand their palette and I know that the client doesn’t like that kind of whisky.”

[See also: The Most Expensive Whisky Ever Sold at Auction]

Pileggi also steps outside his shop to curate bespoke collections for private residences and even weddings. He says: “For weddings, we can create a whisky bar with bottles from the bride and groom’s birthday year, or from any decade back to the 1940s. That’s mind-blowing for people who love whisky. Even if you’re wealthy enough to own that bottle, you might not open it. You want to keep it. It’s almost like an asset. You don’t want to touch it. But at these events, we make it possible to sample these rare bottles.

“We start with budgets ranging from $50,000 to $250,000, depending on the level of the event,” he adds. “Depending on your budget, I can give you the absolute best whisky you can ever drink.” 

His expertise extends to personal consultations and home bar curation. As a personal curator, he offers a level of service that ensures each collection is unique and perfectly suited to the client’s needs, whether for investment collections or bars for entertainment. 

red collection macallan
The Red Collection by The Macallan / ©Collezione

“We had a client who wanted a vintage bar filled with whisky and cognac. He doesn’t even drink,” Stefano recalls. “He asked me, ‘I want something that when someone comes into the apartment at home, they know that I know my stuff.’ So we created a collection that is not for drinking. So those are like art pieces.”

His services go beyond securing the collection. He provides expert advice on everything from insurance to display methods: “I gave him white-glove intel. You know, it’s not only selling, like I told him what I use as my insurance, how to display, how to protect the bottles.”

Although his own business is booming, Pileggi sees trouble for the wider whisky market. “The companies now, some of them are releasing too many things, too expensive, too fast, “he says. “The Macallan, many years ago, would sell a 40 Year Old for $3,000. Today, they’re releasing 40 Year Olds at $20,000. Nobody’s drinking anymore. Before, at $3,000, I was drinking it. Once a whisky doesn’t get drunk anymore, it loses its rarity. Why are all the old bottles so rare? Because people back then drank it.”

[See also: The Last Drop Distillers Reveals 2024 Collection]

Regarding whisky as an investment, Pileggi emphasizes the importance of patience and knowledge. “I started very early,” he says. “My investment in whisky has been great. Today, the market has changed because the access points to buy expensive bottles are very expensive. “

For those looking to start their own collection, he offers valuable advice. “It’s a long-term investment,” he says. “There are great bottles at every price point. It’s about finding the right balance between investment and the experience of tasting something special. At any budget, I still prefer to look at the past because they were making things much, much better in the past. It’s better to buy a few 18-year-old bottles from the 1960s or 1960s than to buy a new production bottle that nobody is drinking.”

Contact: 786 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10065;; +1 917 388 2083;

Select and enter your email address Be the first to know about the latest in luxury lifestyle. Get the latest news on hotel openings and in-depth travel guides. Get insider access to exclusive promotions and special offers from our luxury partners.
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thank you for subscribing to Elite Traveler.

Websites in our network