Shackleton's Scotch: You Don't Have to Freeze to Death to Enjoy It
March 21, 2012
You may not have the resources to mount an expedition to Antarctica, but you can drink like the explorers who got there.
In 1907, Ernest Shackleton and his men set out for the South Pole on their ship, the Nimrod. They were forced to evacuate in 1909, about 100 yards from reaching the Pole. Even more heartbreaking, they had to abandon a stash of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Whisky, leaving it under a floorboard in their expedition hut.
That whisky was found several years ago, intact after a century---it never got cold enough to freeze, even in Antarctic temperatures (there’s an upside to global warming, after all). Scientists extracted samples of the whisky and sent them to White and Mackay in Scotland, the firm that purchased Mackinlay’s many years ago.
After subjecting the whisky to extensive chemical analysis and gas chromatography, researchers were able to determine the region where it had been made (Orkney), the level of peat (low), and the barrel regimen (American oak casks, used once to age wine or Sherry). Richard Paterson, White and Mackay’s extraordinary master distiller, was then able to blend a number of old whiskies from the storehouse available to him, and successfully recreate the Shackleton Scotch. The finished product contained whisky from the original distillery in Glen Mohr where the Mackinlay was made, along with liquor from Dalmore in the Highlands, Speyside (Benriach and Glenfarclas) and Balblair, Pulteney and Jura. The final blend was then aged in sherry casks, and subjected to rigorous analysis once again to make certain that it was identical to the original.
Odds are you’ll never be able to taste the original, but the recreation of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Whisky is now available for purchase at several dozen purveyors around the country, at an average price of $175. What’s it like?
The whisky has a pale yellow gold color and a rich nose with aromas of wheat, malt and spring flowers. It is fruity and flavorful on entry, coating the palate with attractive notes of fresh peaches, citrus, honey and pepper. The texture is unctuous, yet the spirit is vivacious and lively rather than heavy and cloying. The peach notes become more pronounced on the finish, which is long and luscious. It must have been a heartbreaker to leave this one behind.