In 2006, The New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust found three cases of Chas Mackinlay & Co’s whisky in the ice under Ernest Shackleton’s hut. Shackleton made an expedition to Antarctic in 1907-1909. The expedition didn’t go well, forcing Shackleton to abandon their hut and leave stuff behind – including the whisky and some Australian brandy made in Hunter Valley.
The whisky found from Antarctic was from the Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt brand, which is nowadays owned by Whyte & Mackay (acquired it as part of Invergordon Distillers in 1995). Mackinlay’s whisky has been discontinued for several years. In two months after the samples were brought to Scotland, Whyte & Mackay recreated the Mackinlay’s whisky found from Shackleton’s hut, releasing a 50 000 bottle edition of the replica whisky.
The whisky was carefully analyzed and you can read the results from this article – Sensory and Chemical Analysis of “Shackleton’s” Mackinlay Scotch Whisky, J. Inst. Brew. 117(2), 156–165, 2011, James Pryde, John Conner, Frances Jack, Mark Lancaster, Lizzie Meek, Craig Owen, Richard Paterson, Gordon Steele, Fiona Strang and Jacqui Woods.
This replica, the Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky has two editions. First edition was named Discovery and the second one, which I got to taste, was named Journey. For the Journey edition, Whyte & Mackay’s master blender Richard “The Nose” Paterson, used a rare cask of Glen Mhor from 1980. Glen Mhor is the original primary malt for Mackinlay’s and the distillery was closed in 1983 (an ’83 cask was used in Discovery). Paterson also used some heavily peated Dalmore – for giving the whisper of peat – and malts from Glenfarclas, Mannochmore, Tamnavulin, Ben Nevis, Aultmore, Fettercairn, Old Pulteney and Jura. Bottled at the same strength as the sample of recovered Mackinlay’s whisky. The ages of the malts vatted together variate between eight and thirty years old, thirty being the Glen Mhor.
Can’t help myself not to think about THE THING
Deep down, I’m a skeptic. That’s why the first thing that came to mind: this can’t be nothing but a overpriced whisky in a nicely designed package. Then again, the story loving, whisky dreaming me thought: what a treat to get a chance to taste replica whisky left behind by a Antarctica expedition! Since it’s a blend of lots of different malts, I wasn’t expecting anything special. Fortunately, this replica managed to be surprisingly good. An most of all, it has character. I’m sure that the amazing “backstory” did have an impact on me. My subconscious was constantly wandering to Antarctica and while the whisky itself felt mysterious by taste, The Thing immediately came to mind. It’s hard not to glorify or mystify the roots of this blended malt.
Nose: Very sharp and stays that way quite a long time. Delicate fruits with vibrant and very dry oak and ginger. Fruits turn into berries with a fresh, salty air breeze on the back.
Taste: Dryness is strong again, with some sugary notes. Dry and bitter lingonberries along with sweet marmalade and cinnamon. Wee smoke in the background…
Finish: Remains dry and sweet. Bit of spices as well but the finish is way too quick.
Balance: Little bit of complexity and some lack of aftertaste. Surprisingly good, having some character even though it’s a vatted malt of 10 different distilleries. A whisky journey with force, even for skeptics.
Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 19 | Balance: 21
Overall score: 84
Bottler: Whyte and Mackay
Bottling: Replica of Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky by Mackinlay’s Glen Mhor distillery