The 1914-1916 Endurance voyage made Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton one of the most famous and beloved explorers in history. But it was the Nimrod Expedition a few years earlier that would inspire one of the most sought after replica whisky’s ever created. Collectors, spirit aficionados, history buffs and modern-day explorers are all keen to take a sip of this storied Scotch.
In 1907, Ernest Henry Shackleton and three other men set out to reach the South Pole — farther south on the Antarctic continent than anyone had ever gone. They made it within 100 miles, only to be defeated by equipment failure, extreme weather and lack of supplies. But before returning home to Great Britain, Shackleton left something behind: several cases of Scotch whisky, presumably for celebratory drinking after a successful expedition was completed.
The whisky was never consumed.
A century later, three crates were found by a team from the New Zealand Heritage Trust whom were restoring the hut used by Shackleton and his crew at Cape Royds on the Antarctic Peninsula. The “Rare old Highland malt whisky, blended and bottled by Chas. Mackinlay & Co” was frozen in permafrost beneath the floorboards. In early 2010, one crate was unearthed from the ice by the Antarctic Heritage Trust and flown to Canterbury Museum in New Zealand for scientific study, as is required for any artifact removed from the polar continent under the guidelines of the Antarctic Treaty.
As you would expect, master distillers from around the world were more than eager to taste and reproduce the centennial juice. The bottles were left in tact and the Highland blend was replicated in the land where it was first produced: Scotland. The packaging was also replicated to resemble what was taken to the great white continent all those years ago.
I was given a dram* of Shackleton’s Whisky last month while crossing the Drake Passage during the 100 year anniversary of the start of the Endurance expedition. I am not a spirit expert, but I’ve taken my turn studying wine and can certainly appreciate how an aged story and blend can satisfy in the finest way — and in that spirit, it was one of the finest drams of my life.
To read the full story, more about how the replication fared in the opinion of whisky experts, and to find out where to buy Shackleton’s Whisky, please visit The Shackleton Whisky official site.
Look for many more stories from the southern polar region — Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands — soon to come on this site.
*A dram is a unit of measure often used to describe the quantity of an alcoholic beverage that the pourer chooses to give.