Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Charles Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky

Our story begins in 1907, when famous explorer Ernest Shackleton contacted the Glen Mhor Distillery to request twenty-five cases of their Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt - a ten year old whisky which was recognized as one of the classic Highland malts of its day. The distillery was happy to oblige and even created a commemorative label to honor the event, which read "Specially prepared for the British Antarctic Expedition 1907 - Ship Endurance". You see, at that time Shackleton was planning to change the name of his ship from "Nimrod" to "Endurance", but he eventually lost interest in the idea. However, time was a factor so in August 1907, Shackleton departed from London on the Nimrod, with the mislabeled "Endurance" whisky safely stored beneath the decks.

The Nimrod arrived in Antarctica's McMurdo Sound on January 29th, 1908. Landing at Cape Royds, the team battled difficult conditions for days as they struggled to build shelter and bring their equipment and supplies to shore. When they were finally established at their base camp, the team began their scientific work and started planning their long journey to both the South Pole and the Magnetic South Pole. Shackleton and three team members departed in November 1908 and began the difficult march south - a journey which brought the men to the edge of starvation. They ultimately fall short of their goal by less than 100 miles. However, the legendary leadership skills of Shackleton ensured that all four men returned safely and were back on board the Nimrod by early March 1909. As the winter sea ice began to form and the blizzards returned, the expedition hurriedly sailed for home, leaving behind many of their belongings - including several crates of the Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt.

Members of the original expedition.
Now fast forward to February 2007, when two crates of whisky were discovered in Antarctica by a team from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust - a group dedicated to preserving the history of the region. Although the discovery sparked the interest of numerous world organizations, the crates could not be removed from Antarctica due to international protocols. So the crates remained encased in ice until early 2010, when the Antarctic Heritage Trust was granted permission to remove one of the cases. It was quickly rushed to the Canterbury Museum where it took two weeks to fully defrost and stabilize the whisky. After completing a detailed analysis of the package, it was deemed that the whisky was the very same Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt that was distilled in 1897 and bottled in 1907 exclusively for Ernest Shackletons' Nimrod expedition to Antarctica.
One of the original crates of Mackinlay's Rare Old Whisky
In January 2011, three bottles of this rare whisky were returned to Whyte & Mackay, the owners of the Mackinlay brand. It was transferred by private jet to the Whyte & Mackay's Invergordon Spirit Laboratory, where Master Blender Richard Paterson, and his expert team spent several weeks in the laboratory nosing, tasting and deconstructing the whisky to reveal its true heritage. Aside from identifying the various aromas and flavors, this rigorous analysis proved that the whisky was 47.3% alcohol, was aged in American white oak sherry casks, and the peat used for the malting originated in the Orkney Islands.

Inspired by their analysis, the team embarked on the challenge of recreating this rare whisky, and the result is exceptional. This painstaking reproduction of the original is an intricate blend of Speyside (Longmorn, Benriach, Glenfarclas, Mannochmore, Tamnavulin and Glenrothes), Highland (Balblair and Pulteney) and Jura malts which have been carefully selected for their specific flavor profiles. This masterful combination is composed of malts varying in age from eight to thirty years old, which have been married in the finest sherry butts. The resulting spirit is complex, aromatic and refined, offering delicate notes of crushed apple, pear and fresh pineapple complemented by smoke, vanilla, caramel, nutmeg and oak. The bottle and packaging have also been recreated down to the last detail - bubbles in the glass make each bottle unique, while the labels incorporate hand-lettering and labeling techniques from the early 20th century. Only 50,000 bottles were produced, so add this remarkable spirit to your collection today.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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