C19th whisky returned to Shackleton’s hut

23rd January, 2013 by Lucy Shaw

Three bottles of 19th century Mackinlay’s Scotch whisky left behind by Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton have been returned to his Antarctic base on Ross Island.

Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton

Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton

Bottled in 1898 after 15 years of ageing, the Mackinlay bottles were among three crates of Scotch and two of brandy buried beneath a hut Shackleton used during his 1907 Nimrod excursion to the Antarctic.

The expedition failed to reach the South Pole, but set a record for reaching the farthest southern latitude, leading Shackleton to be knighted on his return to Britain.

In 2010, the whisky was discovered frozen in ice by conservationists, 102 years after Shackleton was forced to leave them behind buried under the floorboards.

While the crates were frozen solid after more than a century beneath the Antarctic surface, the bottles were found intact despite -30C temperatures

On hearing of the discovery, distiller Whyte & Mackay, which owns the Mackinlay brand, chartered a private jet to take the bottles to Scotland for analysis in 2011.

The distiller recreated the long lost recipe in a limited edition run of 50,000 bottles from a sample drawn with a syringe through a cork of one of the bottles.

Master blender Richard Paterson spent eight weeks marrying and blending a range of malts to get an exact replica of the 19th century whisky.

One of the bottles of 1898 Mackinlay Scotch discovered in 2010 beneath Shackleton's hut in the Antarctic

One of the bottles of 1898 Mackinlay Scotch discovered frozen in ice in 2010 beneath Shackleton’s hut in the Antarctic

Last Friday, the Mackinlay’s bottles were flown with the New Zealand prime minister John Key to Antarctica in a US Air Force transport plane from Christchurch.

Key handed over the bottles to Antarctic Heritage Trust officials at New Zealand’s Antarctic base on Ross Island.

In March the whisky will be transferred to to Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds and placed beneath it as part of a programme to protect the legacy of the heroic era of Antarctic exploration from 1898 to 1915.

“It’s nice to work with artifacts that have such a lovely aroma.

“The aroma of whisky was around very strongly. I’m very relieved that the objects are safe,” Antarctic Heritage Trust manager Lizzie Meek, who was part of the team that discovered the whisky, said.

The Shackleton replica blend – Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, costs £100 a bottle, with £5 from every sale donated to the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

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