Whisky Focus - Shackleton's Mackinlay's Highland Malt Whisky Replica

Shackleton's Mackinlay's Whisky Recreated

5th April 2011

Shackleton's Mackinlay's Highland malt whisky is a rare taste of whisky history.

They have done it! The team at Whyte & Mackay have recreated the Mackinlay's whisky which was found in 2007 after it had spent more than 100 years untouched by human hands and encased in Antarctic ice at the South Pole.

How on earth did Mackinlay's whisky find its way to the South Pole? Well, it was part of Ernest Shackleton's supplies in the 1907 - 1909 Shackleton lead South Pole expedition. Due to treacherous conditions and the onset of winter Shackleton's team were forced to hurriedly abandon their expedition leaving behind many of their possessions which were thought to be unnecessary for the return journey including the cases of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky.

In 2006 a team from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust who was restoring Shackleton's hut discovered several cases of spirits lodged in the ice under the hut, three of these cases were found to contain Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky. They could not immediately dislodge them because they were too deeply embedded in the ice.

Whyte & Mackay, who now own the Mackinlay's brand, launched a bid to recover the whisky for samples to test and potentially use it to relaunch the once popular Mackinlay's Scotch whisky brand. In 2010 the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust used special cutting tools to carefully remove the cases of spirits from the ice.

In January 2011 three bottles of the Mackinlay's whisky which accompanied Ernest Shackleton on his 1907 expedition were returned to brand owner Whyte & Mackay for scientific analysis.

The liquid was considered so rare and valuable that the Antarctic Heritage Trust and New Zealand authorities refused to let it travel to Scotland 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 & Mackayís master blender Richard Paterson spent a painstaking eight weeks marrying and blending a range of malts to get an exact replica of this 100 year old rare taste of whisky history.

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 & Mackayís new liquid.

He said: "The Shackleton whisky is not what I expected at all, and not what anyone would have expected. Itís so light, so fresh, so delicate and still in one piece Ė itís 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 itís 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. Iím 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 its 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 Trustís 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.

Hopefully the Mackinlay's replica will be a platform relaunch the once popular Mackinlay's Scotch whisky brand which many of you probably already assumed is no more but it is actually still available today in selected European markets.

Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt
Tasting Notes

The replica Shackleton Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt is a blended malt containing whisky from a range of Highland malts, including Glen Mhor, which was the original Mackinlayís distillery before it closed in 1983.

Limited to 50,000 bottles, it was bottled at 47.3% ABV, is non chill-filtered and has had no added caramel colouring (Just how we like it). It comes in a replica bottle and wooden box.

William Morrison's Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale gold.

Nose: Spicy oak, fresh fruit green apples, pear drops, smooth malty cereal, vanilla, hint of orange zest and a whisper of smoke.

Taste: Loads going on here, rich creamy toffee, vanilla, a bit of orange zest, hazelnuts, a little sprinkling of pepper, old and new oak spices and a lovely very light touch of smoke is always lingering in the background

Finish: Long and rich with drying oak spices, creamy toffee and the slightest hint of smoke.

Comment: No wonder Ernest Shackleton choose Mackinlay's whisky to take with him to the South Pole. This shows just how special a blended malt whisky can be, it is a very high quality blended malt whisky and very easy to drink. Richer than the colour lets on. Is it worth the £100 price tag? Only you can decide but I think I will be getting a full bottle now. Loved it!

SMW Score 89/100

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