In 2006, a crate of Mackinlay’s Scotch Whisky was found, encased in ice, under the floorboards of the hut used by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 Antarctic expedition on Ross Island, near McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. Earlier this year, the crate was removed and has been kept in cold storage — until recently, when the crate was carefully thawed and its contents removed.
Eleven bottles of Mackinlay’s were removed from the crate. Each bottle carefully wrapped in paper and straw, which served to protect their contents for the tumultuous trip to Antarctica during Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition in 1907. The negative-twenty-two degree temperatures did not freeze the liquor, as it could be heard sloshing from within the frozen crate, but obviously preserved the contents nicely. The eleven bottles are thought to be of the 1896 or the 1897 vintage.
Unfortunately, this rare and preserved whisky won’t be enjoyed. Instead, it will be preserved for historical purposes. Luckily, samples from the eleven bottles will be extracted and analyzed by Whyte and Mackay, who own the rights to the Mackinlay brand. The Whyte and Mackay master blenders will examine the samples and attempt to recreate this fine spirit, whose original recipe is no longer in existence.
“This is immensely exciting and a great find for the Scottish whisky industry. We hope to take possibly two of the bottles back to Scotland and replicate the recipe. The ice should have preserved the whisky but we won’t know until we examine it.” — Richard Paterson, master blender for Whyte and Mackay.
After the samples are taken, the eleven bottles will be carefully repacked into the crate and returned to their original location in the Shackleton hut to again become one with the ice. Such a shame that these fine specimens won’t be enjoyed by whisky aficionados, we can only hope that Whyte and Mackay are successful in producing a close blend to match the contents of those eleven frozen bottles.