Shackleton’s rare Scotch returned to Antarctic expedition base

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good NewsJanuary 21, 2013

Three bottles of rare Scotch have been returned to Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton's expedition base.

Bottled in 1898 — the blend was aged 15 years prior to bottling — the famed explorer's whisky was discovered in 2010. Conservationists found the stash of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt, unopened and intact, in frozen crates under the floor boards at the abandoned base.

"Antarctica's minus 22 Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius) temperature was not enough to freeze the liquor," the Associated Press reports.

Distiller Whyte & Mackay, now the owners to the Mackinlay brand, chartered a private jet to take three of the bottles from Antarcitca to New Zealand to Scotland for analysis.

Without comprising the bottles' contents, the distiller was able to extract a sample from one of the bottles using a syringe though a cork — the originally recipe had been lost decades ago — and recreated a limited edition of the 47 per cent proof spirit. The sales netted the Antarctica Heritage Trust about $500,000.

A new version of the $200 bottle, called The Journey, will likely bring in $1 million.

"I was delighted when I heard Whyte & Mackay would launch a different product as the first edition went down particularly well," Nigel Watson, the trust's chief executive, said.

"Not only will it give more people a chance to taste a part of history, the donation of future sales will greatly assist our efforts to conserve and maintain Shackleton's Antarctic legacy ."

And now those three discovered bottles have been returned to where they came from. They will sit under the floor boards of Shackleton's restored hut as part of a program to preserve and "protect the legacy of the so-called heroic era of Antarctic exploration from 1898 to 1915."

Though Shackleton's 1907-1909 Nimrod expedition was deemed unsuccessful — he failed to reach the South Pole — he did reach the furthest southern latitude at the time and was knighted upon his return to Great Britain.

"I think we're all tempted to crack it open and have a little drink ourselves now," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key joked at the ceremony handing over the bottles to Antarctic Heritage Trust officials at New Zealand's Antarctic base on Ross Island.

While the original bottles of whisky were returned to New Zealand last month intact, Whyte & Mackay's master blender Richard Paterson kept one small vial of the extracted century-old alcohol as an important reminder, the New Zealand Herald reports.

"It is a wonderful reminder of what a historic whisky this is and of the men who, with Shackleton, really suffered in their endeavours to conquer the South Pole," Paterson said.