In 2007, one of the more significant discoveries was made in the world of whisky. While restoring Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut in Antarctica (used during his 1907-09 “Nimrod” Expedition, when he went further than anyone had ever before but was 97.5 nautical miles short of the South Pole), workers stumbled upon three cases—holding roughly 11 bottles—of Scotch frozen in permafrost. Specifically, it was labeled “Rare old Highland malt whisky, blended and bottled by Chas. Mackinlay & Co.” It was noted that Shackleton had purchased 25 cases for the journey, altogether, for use along the way. Richard Paterson—a master blender, the Master Distiller of Whyte and Mackay and The Dalmore, and otherwise known as “The Nose”—brought the bottles back to Scotland and began to decipher what was within. Today, Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky is the result of such work, but it’s far from the first offering to hit shelves. With our latest September Scotch installment, we explore the steps that led to this lightly peated, permanent portfolio expression that wows with its present-day relevance.
Paterson’s first step was actually an exact replica of the rediscovered Scotch, something very few are capable of producing. Within, he employed a blend of 1983 Glen Mhor in addition to Speyside and Highland whiskies. Some 50,000 bottles were released under the name Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt: The Discovery and £250,000 was raised along the way, for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Those who had the opportunity to taste both made clear the accuracy which Paterson delivered. Bottles of the replica, while hard to come by, still remain out there.
At the behest of Alexandra Shackleton, Ernest’s granddaughter, a second edition blend was produced. This was made to honor explorer Tim Jarvis, who was in the planning stages of an authentic reenactment of Shackleton’s 1916 Southern Ocean crossing. For Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt: The Journey, Paterson utilized a range of well-known whiskies, including Aultmore, Ben Nevis, Glenfarclas, Jura and Pulteney. This iteration was also quite true to its ancestor in scent and taste. Bottles can still be found, as well.
Now, however, the brand is releasing the aforementioned third expression, Shackleton, and they’ve done more than drop the ABV from 47% to 40%. It’s more of an interpretation—scaled to be introduced to a broader group of people (because proceeds benefit the Antarctic Heritage Trust). “It has an enormous amount of richness to it,” Single Malt Specialist Jason Moore, from Whyte and Mackay, shares with us. He notes that there’s a small amount of Highland peated whisky in midst of the mellower and sweeter malts—altogether 20 malts have been blended in here. Jarvis himself has tasted every single one of the expressions—including one that was recovered. He attests to the authenticity. From caramel and cinnamon on the nose to sweet dried fruits on the palate, it’s a complex, high-quality blend that would stand on its own even without the wonderful story behind it. It does, however, have a fantastic tale behind its inception, altogether making it a tipple worth getting your hands on.
Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky will be available in the US starting 1 October 2017, and retailing for about $35.
Hero image by Cool Hunting, all other images courtesy of Whyte & Mackay