Today in Very Sad News About Scotch

From the Miami Herald:

Talk about whisky on ice: Three bottles of rare, 19th century Scotch found beneath the floor boards of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackelton's abandoned expedition base were returned to the polar continent Saturday after a distiller flew them to Scotland to recreate the long-lost recipe.

But not even New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who personally returned the stash, got a taste of the contents of the bottles of Mackinlay's whisky, which were rediscovered 102 years after the explorer was forced to leave them behind.

“I think we're all tempted to crack it open and have a little drink ourselves now,” Key joked at a ceremony handing over the bottles to Antarctic Heritage Trust officials at New Zealand's Antarctic base on Ross Island.

The whisky will be transferred by March from Ross Island to Shackelton's desolate hut at Cape Royds and replaced beneath the restored hut as part of a program to protect the legacy of the so-called heroic era of Antarctic exploration from 1898 to 1915.

Bottled in 1898 after the blend was aged 15 years, the Mackinlay bottles were among three crates of Scotch and two of brandy buried beneath a basic hut Shackleton had used during his dramatic 1907 Nimrod excursion to the Antarctic. The expedition failed to reach the South Pole but set a record at the time for reaching the farthest southern latitude. Shackelton was knighted after his return to Great Britain.


Got that? Some of the most rare whisky in the world was just… buried… without anyone actually getting a chance to take a sip. If it's true that whisky gets better as it ages, then the world's best was just essentially thrown away. This is the male version of Rose tossing that blue diamond into the ocean at the end of “Titanic.”

Here's how good the scotch probably is. The New York Times published a (pretty interesting) article last year on how the Shackelton whisky was replicated for mass sale by a whisky manufacturer in Scotland. Writer Charles McGrath got to try the replica. He said it was the best whisky he had ever had.

My hand now properly installed on the glass, I took a sip. It didn’t taste like medicine, and neither was it as peaty as I expected. Mild and fragrant, it was probably the best whisky I’ve ever drunk, though it’s also true that, with Paterson looking on, I had never tasted whisky so carefully, letting it linger on my tongue, rolling it underneath, holding it in my mouth and then exhaling deeply.

Paterson, who had by now helped himself to a dram, told me what I was experiencing. “It’s showing you a bouquet of fruit,” he said. “Crushed apples, peaches, hints of cinnamon, toffee, caramel, notes of sherry wood. But bloody hell — where’s the peat?” Like most everyone else, he explained, he assumed that 19th-century whisky taken to the Antarctic would be smoky and robust, the kind of drink that would give you a jolt and clear your head. Instead, the Shackleton malt was elegant and light — like a beautiful woman, Paterson said. He nosed the glass again. “This is a whisky with great charm, just like Shackleton, a great shagger of the ladies! He was a great man, but there was a soft side to him.”


Shit. This is tragic. I need a drink.