Perhaps one the most fascinating stories in the modern history of spirits is the discovery of whisky brought to Antartica by the famed explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton.
Apparently Shackleton left behind around five crates of what appears to be scotch whiskey buried beneath a hut he used during his famously failed expedition to the South Pole. (And yes, that was five crates, not just five bottles!) The labels say the bottles were produced, probably sometime in the late 19th century, by Mackinlay and Co., a label now owned by Whyte and Mackay,. In 2006 the bottles were discovered and late last year Whyte and Mackay were granted permission to examine and test their contents.
Whyte and Mackay will remove a tiny bit of the whisky using a syringe to analyze the contents of the bottles. They are hoping discover what kind of whisky it is, how it was made, and how well it was preserved by the polar conditions. It will be a sort of “time capsule” for the whisky world and, perhaps more importantly, will tell us something about Shackleton himself. I mean let’s be honest. Is there anything that conveys more about a man’s character than what kind of whisky he is willing to carry with him to the ends of the earth?
Let’s be honest, the whisky and its discovery is not nearly the most shocking and inexplicable portion of this story by a long measure, nor any of the complexities involved in its analysis or its return voyage to Glasgow. To me, the most fascinating aspect of all this has to be the very fact that Shackleton actually had this much whisky left in his hut to leave behind? I think even just a few days in the subzero temperatures of Antarctica would be enough to make me want to dip into the reserve, so to speak.
Posted by: David McBride