100-year-old Scotch pulled from frozen crate

100-year-old Scotch pulled from frozen crate (AP)
In this Feb. 5, 2010 file photo released by Antarctic Heritage Trust on Feb. 8, 2010, one of crates of Scotch whisky and brandy is pictured after they have been recovered by a team restoring an Antarctic hut used more than 100 years ago by famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. One of the crates of the Scotch whisky that was trapped in Antarctic ice for a century was finally opened Friday, Aug. 13, 2010 but the heritage dram won't be tasted by whisky lovers because it's being preserved for its historic significance. (AP Photo/Antarctic Heritage Trust)

(AP) -- A crate of Scotch whisky that was trapped in Antarctic ice for a century was finally opened Friday - but the heritage dram won't be tasted by whisky lovers because it's being preserved for its historical significance.

The crate, recovered from the Antarctic hut of renowned explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton after it was found there in 2006, has been thawed very slowly in recent weeks at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island.

The crate was painstakingly opened to reveal 11 of Mackinlay's Scotch whisky, wrapped in paper and straw to protect them from the rigors of a rough trip to Antarctica for Shackleton's 1907 Nimrod expedition.

Though the crate was frozen solid when it was retrieved earlier this year, the whisky inside could be heard sloshing around in the bottles. Antarctica's minus 22 Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius) temperature was not enough to freeze the liquor, dating from 1896 or 1897 and described as being in remarkably good condition.

This Scotch is unlikely ever to be tasted, but master blenders will examine samples of it to see if they can replicate the brew. The original recipe for the no longer exists.

Once samples have been extracted and sent to Scottish distiller Whyte and Mackay, which took over Mackinlay's distillery many years ago, the 11 bottles will be returned to their home - under the floorboards of Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island, near Antarctica's McMurdo Sound.

Whisky lover Michael Milne, a Scot who runs the Whisky Galore liquor outlet in Christchurch, described the rare event as a great experience.

"I just looked at this (crate) and honestly, my heartbeat went up about three paces. It was amazing," he said. "The box was like a pioneer's box with the wood and nails coming out," he said.

Although Milne said he'd give anything to have a taste of the whisky. "It is not going to happen and I am not going to get excited about it," he said. "But if there was ever an opportunity, it could be a wonderful one to have."

Nigel Watson, executive director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, which is restoring the explorer's hut, said opening the crate was a delicate process.

The crate will remain in cold storage and each of the 11 bottles will be carefully assessed and conserved over the next few weeks. Some samples will be extracted, possibly using a syringe through the bottles' cork stoppers.

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User comments

Aug 13, 2010
Bottles of Scotch preserved for their historical significance!? Good Grief!! Supposing there is "significance" what exactly is the significance other than some sort of magical thinking. Why not auction 10 bottles and use the proceeds to, oh, I don't know, preserve some of the ice where Shackleton took a pee?

Aug 13, 2010
I wouldn't mind a taste, but I'm not getting excited about it either. It's only whiskey, and over the years, refinement and the benefits of a competitive environment will have improved the flavors of the finely crafted Scotch whiskey to the point that I'd probably prefer a contemporary 12 year old single malt to the century old one anyway.

Aug 13, 2010
Scotch on the rocks indeed.

Aug 13, 2010
So very wrong.
Drink it!

Aug 13, 2010
This doesn't mean it's a 100 year old Scotch. The age date of a Scotch has to do with how long it's aged in a wooden barrel. Once it's removed from the barrel the aging process stops. So if this was a 10 year Scotch and it was lost for 100 years, it doesn't mean it's a 110 year old Scotch. Sorry to disappoint.

Aug 13, 2010
If they ever found where Shackleton took a pee they might preserve that as well.

Aug 13, 2010
Oh look and Shackleton just wrote his name in the (now yellow) snow!!

Aug 14, 2010
They should at least taste it so they know whether it is worth preserving. No I didn't miss the point I just really like scotch.

Aug 14, 2010
Unbelievably dumb idea to put the bottles back under a shack. Are they on drugs? Sell it at auction & use the funds to help restore other real historical items with some actual significance (as suggested by 'fixer'). Let the buyer enjoy the drink, if its any good and put the empty bottles in a museum or two.

Aug 14, 2010
That's like thinking an ancient sword will cut better than a new one, so why not let a guy that likes swords cut up stuff with it, and "enjoy" it? 'Cept it don't cut better, and the scotch don't taste better neither.

Aug 15, 2010
Eleven is an interesting number. Don't those bottles come a dozen to a crate? I'm just saying, if I were the archeologist...

Aug 15, 2010
I saw the news report on TV. Apparently one of the bottles in the back of the crate had been taken out of it's straw casing years ago by a sneaky explorer, and the casing put back.

Aug 16, 2010
Man...tasting that stuff would be a friggin' religious experience!

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