THREE bottles of rare 19th-century Scotch whisky found beneath the floorboards of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s abandoned expedition base were returned to the polar continent yesterday after a distiller flew them to Scotland to recreate the long-lost recipe.
But not even New Zealand prime minister John Key, who returned the stash, tasted the bottles of Mackinlay’s whisky which were rediscovered 102 years after the explorer was forced to leave them.
“I think we’re all tempted to crack it open and have a little drink ourselves now,” Key joked at a ceremony handing over the bottles to Antarctic Heritage Trust officials at Ross Island.
The whisky will be transferred to Shackleton’s desolate hut at Cape Royds and replaced beneath the restored hut as part of a programme to protect the legacy of the so-called heroic era of Antarctic exploration from 1898 to 1915.
Bottled in 1898 after the blend was aged 15 years, the Mackinlay’s bottles were among three crates of Scotch and two of brandy buried beneath abasic hut Shackleton had used during his 1907 Nimrod excursion to the Antarctic.
Shackleton’s stash was discovered in ice by conservationists in 2010. The crates were frozen solid after more than a century beneath the Antarctic surface, but the bottles were found intact – and researchers could hear the whisky sloshing around inside. Distiller Whyte & Mackay, which now owns the Mackinlay’s brand, chartered a private jet to take the bottles from New Zealand to Scotland for analysis in 2011.
The company recreated a limited edition of 50,000 bottles from a sample drawn through a cork in one of the bottles.