A taste of things to come…

Whyte & Mackay’s master blender, Richard Paterson, has been working on what some might describe as a labour of love over the last few months. He has been aiming to replicate the Mackinlay’s whisky taken to Antarctica by Ernest Shackleton and, as the statement below describes, his painstaking work has paid off.

Message in a Bottle: 100-Year-Old Whisky Reveals Its Secrets

Whyte & Mackay has successfully recreated the century-old whisky buried under the Antarctic ice by famous explorer Ernest Shackleton.

The company’s master blender Richard Paterson spent a painstaking eight weeks marrying and blending a range of malts to get an exact replica of the 100-year-old Mackinlay’s liquid.

And according to one independent expert, he has got the copy exactly right.

Renowned whisky writer Dave Broom is the only other person in the world to taste both the original whisky and Whyte & Mackay’s new liquid.

He said: “The Shackleton whisky is not what I expected at all, and not what anyone would have expected. It’s so light, so fresh, so delicate and still in one piece – it’s a gorgeous whisky.

“It proves that even way back then so much care, attention and thought went into whisky-making.

“I think the replication is absolutely bang on. Richard has done a great job as it’s a very tricky whisky to replicate, because you have this delicacy, subtlety and the smoke just coming through.

“The sweetness, fragrance and spice, and the subtle smoke, are all there in the replica. I’m blown away.”

The Shackleton replica will cost £100, with 5% from every sale being donated back to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the New Zealand charity responsible for finding and uncovering the original whisky. If all 50,000 bottles sell out the Trust will receive £250,000.

Trust chief executive Nigel Watson said: “From start to finish it’s taken almost four years to safely extract the whisky crate from site and then Antarctica, thaw it in museum conditions, secure permits and complete scientific analysis in Scotland . I am delighted that Whyte & Mackay recognise the hard work and value of the Trust’s conservation mission in Antarctica by making this very generous and welcome donation.”

Richard Paterson said that matching the whisky really tested his blending skills, but it was a true labour of love.

“It was a real privilege getting to handle, nose and taste such a rare and beautiful bottle of whisky. The quality, purity and taste of this 100-year-old spirit was amazing. The biggest surprise was the light flavour and the clear, almost vibrant colour of the liquid. I hope I have done our forefathers and Ernest Shackleton proud with the replica.

“I would like to thank the Trust in particular for their patience, their expertise and their hard work. They fully deserve the substantial funds this special bottle will generate.”

The whole replication process has been documented exclusively for National Geographic Channel for a documentary due to air at the end of this year.

Tasting Notes

The replica Mackinlay contains whisky from a range of highland malts, including Glen Mhor, which was the original Mackinlay’s distillery before it closed in 1983.

The 47.3% ABV whisky has a light honey and straw gold colour with shimmering highlights. The nose is soft, elegant and refined with delicate aromas of crushed apple, pear and fresh pineapple. It has a whisper of marmalade, cinnamon and a tease of smoke, ginger and muscovado sugar. The generous strength of the 47.3% whisky, believed to be high to stop the alcohol freezing, gives plenty of impact, but in a mild and warming way. It has whispers of gentle bonfire smoke slowly giving way to spicy rich toffee, treacle and pecan nuts.

Renowned whisky writer Dave Broom who sampled the original and the replica whisky stating he was 'blown away'.

Master blender Richard Paterson examines one of the 100 year old bottles of whisky.

The Mackinlay replica bottle and packaging inspired by the original Shackleton whisky. The glass manufacturer had to switch off all 'quality controls' to make the bottle as imperfect as the original.

Shackleton’s Whisky Returns Home to Scotland

The famous whisky has returned home to Scotland after spending more than 100 years untouched by human hand and encased in Antarctic ice.

Three bottles of the Mackinlays whisky which accompanied Ernest Shackleton on his 1907 expedition have been returned to brand owner Whyte & Mackay for scientific analysis.

The liquid is so rare and valuable that the Antarctic Heritage Trust and New Zealand authorities refused to let it travel unaccompanied and in the hold of any plane.

So Whyte & Mackay company owner Dr Vijay Mallya, the renowned Indian business mogul, stepped in to personally collect and fly the bottles back to Scotland using his private jet.

Whyte & Mackay’s master blender Richard Paterson will spend up to six weeks in full laboratory conditions analysing, nosing, tasting and “deconstructing” the whisky before reporting back to the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Once the analysis is complete, the bottles will be transported back to New Zealand by private plane for their eventual return to Shackleton’s hut in Antarctica, unlikely to ever leave the ice again.

Dr Vijay Mallya and Richard Paterson with a bottle of the Shackleton whisky

Continuing Conservation

Recently returned from a winter in Antarctica, Objects Conservator Nicola Dunn is now at Canterbury Museum undertaking conservation assessment and treatment of Shackleton’s whisky bottles and crate.

There’s a lot of volcanic scoria to be removed, followed by consolidation of the paper wrappers and the straw bottle covers, which are only loosely held together. The conservation will happen over the next few weeks. Watch out for an update from Nicola on how the conservation is proceeding.

Nicola Dunn works on one of the whisky bottles at Canterbury Museum

Earthquake Update

There is no evidence of structural damage to Canterbury Museum following the 4 September earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.

You will all be pleased to hear that the whisky is also undamaged.

Canterbury Museum will re-open to the public on Wednesday 15 September.

Why won’t we drink it?

Many people have asked why we aren’t drinking the whisky. Or why we aren’t keeping it in New Zealand.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust manages a programme of heritage conservation in Antarctica, which involves the heroic-era expedition bases of Scott, Shackleton, and Carsten Borchgrevink. Each of these sites is protected under the Antarctic Treaty System and New Zealand is one of the 46 nations which abides by the Treaty System. Areas of biological or historical significance are called Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, and are governed by a management plan. The ASPA management plan for Cape Royds states:

Cape Royds is one of the principal areas of early human activity in Antarctica.  It is an important symbol of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration and, as such, has considerable historical significance.  Some of the earliest advances in the study of earth sciences, meteorology, flora and fauna in Antarctica are associated with the Nimrod Expedition which was based at this site.  The history of these activities and the contribution they have made to the understanding and awareness of Antarctica give this Area significant scientific, aesthetic and historic values….

The aim of the ASPA plan is to protect the site from damage and the further loss of artefacts. AHT works to conserve the artefacts at the hut sites at their original site; to minimize their deterioration; and to make information about the objects available within the limits imposed by the physical location of the site. The whisky crate was removed under the management plan provision to temporarily remove artefacts for conservation treatment.

Conservation may be described as the means by which the true nature of an object is preserved. The true nature of an object includes evidence of its origins, its original construction and materials, information as to the technology used in its manufacture, and the cultural significance of the object.

As well as preserving the crate and bottles as unique objects at a unique site, the opportunity exists to reveal information about the ingredients and processes used to manufacture whisky over 100 years ago, information for which records do not currently exist.

The world has already learned a great deal just from seeing the objects and their packaging emerge from the ice. It is also possible a small sample may be analysed to provide further information about historic whisky making, but the ultimate goal is to preserve the bottles in their original state, for future generations, and return them to their designated historic site.

Inside Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds