Last week, we all learned a few interesting facts about Ernest Shackleton. If you skipped that episode, first of all, shame on you, but I forgive you. You still need to catch up. Click here to find out what everybody else except you knows. And then come back. We’ll wait for you.
Nearly 100 years later, restoration workers from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered three crates of whisky (and two of brandy) frozen beneath Shackleton’s home base hut on Cape Royds of Ross Island. This, of course, caught the attention of whisky lovers around the globe.
And it came as no surprise to find a few key individuals scratching their noggins while debating the logistics and potential profitability. In the end, three bottles of “Rare old Highland Malt Whisky, blended and bottled by Chas. Mackinlay & Co.” were permitted to return to Scotland for analysis by Whyte & Mackay’s master blender, Richard Paterson, and James Pryde, the company’s chief chemist. Keen thespian that he is, Paterson handcuffed himself to the two coolers that housed the three bottles, allowing no room for Bond-like espionage to take place while flying home to the motherland. And it’s a good thing, too, because most of us know—whether from personal experience or from simply watching Daniel Craig on film—that the bulk of crimes take place on billionaires’ high security jets. It’s a regular occurrence on my travels. So, many thanks to Mr. Paterson for his painstaking care.
Now, everyone waited with baited breath for the results. Was it a single malt? A blended whisky? Would this reveal further truths about our salty seaman Shackleton?
After working their way through meticulous—and I’m sure delectable—scrutiny, it was determined that the whisky was likely a single malt from the now silent Glen Mhor, that it was aged in American sherry casks of white oak, that the water came from Loch Ness and the peat that smoked the barley originated from the Orkney Islands.
Yes, they were thorough.
And lucky for some, Whyte & Mackay have allowed Richard Paterson to reproduce, to the best of his ability, a blend of whiskies to resemble, almost identically, old Shackleton’s preferred tipple.
A door to the past has been unlocked, and for those hoping to connect with this famous explorer, it’s almost like seeing Shackleton wave to you from the other side, beckoning you to join him.
For a more authentic experience, you might stop eating for three days, walk a dozen miles on your treadmill while pulling one hundred pounds behind you, down four cans of Red Bull, wrap yourself in the hide of one of your reindeer pelts from the basement, and stand for an hour or so in front of your open freezer, sipping a dram of the newly made malt.
It might not be exactly the same, but that’s not really the point.
The world has changed in the last century. The same challenges no longer exist. Even as the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust diligently works to preserve the truth of those polar voyages, and the miraculous mix of science and art have been able to replicate the now celebrated whisky, no one will ever duplicate Ernest Shackleton. The giant ambition, the legendary man. Someone worth toasting.
More links to the whisky and its journey below.
Great videos, and brilliant pictures. Almost like being there.