Sir Ernest Shackleton's first expedition to the Antarctic was known as the Nimrod Expedition, which set out in 1907. During this journey, he set up his expedition headquarters on McMurdo Sound, near Cape Royds, by building a hut on the shore. Due to the extreme conditions in the Antarctic, this hut has survived (with some help) to the present day. Crates of supplies and equipment have been recovered from the hut, and the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust has been working to restore and preserve the site.

In 2006, members of the Trust were working to remove some ice from beneath the floorboards of the hut when they came across a happy surprise! Apparently, to keep it nice and safe, Shackleton or his men had taken two crates of McKinlay and Co. scotch whisky and placed them under the hut. They're still there, bottles apparently intact and sealed, underneath the hut.

What to do with this treasure? Well, the obvious answer - drink some of it! Although unfortunately whisky does not age in the bottle, it is still a priceless opportunity to determine the taste and makeup of a delightful beverage laid down over a hundred years ago, stored in a particularly preservatory manner!

But are they going to do this? NO! In an interview aired on NPR in November, 2009, Alistair Fastier, a member of the trust, when asked if they would be able to taste any of it, said:

It'd be nice to think that we could, but with the heritage protocols, no, we can't. But the first step will be to remove the whisky from under the hut and then we've got a team of professional conservators on hand. And they will assess the crates and the bottles. And then we'll make an informed decision where to go from there. And we will store and locate it.

What? Assess it? "Store and locate it?" Are they mad? This is WHISKY! It demands, nay, cries out to be DRUNK! Good heavens. I mean, sure, save a couple bottles for testing; save the bottles themselves, but think of the opportunities! Have a lottery or contest for at least one shot of the stuff! Auction it off! But for pity's sake, people, LET IT BE DRUNK!

At least some folks have the right idea. According to Fastier, the company that currently owns McKinlay and Co. (a beverage group named Whyte & Mackay) is extremely interested in getting hold of some of the whisky to analyze, perhaps with an eye towards replicating it. Sensible chaps.

Also, "Shackleton's Whisky" would be an excellent name for a band.

Update 2012:

So after extracting some small samples and running them through a clever spectroscopic test indexed to the compounds known to cause flavors in whisky, the blenders of Whyte & Mackay's distillery (the current owners of the Mackinlay's name from the distillery which produced the original whisky) have managed to produce a 'replica' blend of this whisky.

They're selling it to the public as 'Shackleton's Whisky'. For pictures of the original sample case and the hut under which it was found, see here.

Yes, I've bought some. No, I don't have it yet. When I have sampled, I'll post tasting notes here. :-)

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