When legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton set off to conquer the South Pole in the early 1900s he sensibly packed some whisky for those cold polar nights. 25 crates of Scots brewers McKinlay and Co.'s Rare Old to be exact.
Now the surviving crates have been unearthed in a discovery sure to have whisky lovers everywhere licking their lips at the fins. Last month a team from Antarctic Heritage Trust decided to follow in the footsteps of the legendary explorer and go in search of the missing booze he left buried in deep freeze beneath his Cape Royds base camp from his second Nimrod expedition of 1907-09.
The crates of whisky were actually discovered three years ago by the New Zealand Arctic Heritage Trust who are restoring Cape Royds. In November an expedition was planned to saw the crates out of the ice and let them breathe after 100 years in deep freeze.
Now the expedition team is reporting success in excavating the haul from beneath the ice.. And it turns out they got more than they bargained for having successfully rescued not just two but three crates of the century old whisky from the ice. Oh, and there were a further two crates of what appears to be brandy for good measure.
The expedition has provoked worldwide interest. And the question on every whisky lovers lips was, if the bottles could be recovered from the ice, what would a dram of McKinlay and Co’s Rare Old taste like?
Distillers Whyte & Mackay, which owns the McKinlay brand, were also keen to get hold of a bottle, or at least a sample of the now-extinct blend, and bring it home to Scotland with the hope they may be able to recreate it.
Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard Paterson, who has provided many a whisky history lesson for STV, has been following events keenly providing updates on the expedition team’s progress as well as photographs of the find on his blog.
Now it looks like that question may soon be answered as the team undergo the tricky task of extracting the contents after reporting ice has formed inside the crates.
The good news is that they are convinced there is still whisky inside as liquid can be heard when moving the crates around. The smell of whisky surrounding the excavation of the crates also points to at least some bottles of McKinlay and Co.’s appropriately named Rare Old having have survived.
Shackleton explored Antarctica four times in his life. The 1907-09 Nimrod expedition was his second. Having survived the winter at Cape Royds the party split into two- one heading 1260 miles towars the South Magnetic Pole, and Shackleton’s party heading south for the geographic Pole, a 1700-mile trek;
But Shackleton’s party had to choose between survival and the geographic pole. Pounded by blizzards, Shackleton, Frank Wild, Jameson Adams and Eric Marshall came within 97 miles of the South Pole. Then they had to return to McMurdo Sound – or die.
Now the whisky they took with them to keep them warm during their journey into the white unknown looks set to become the toast of the whisky world.