Scotch on the rocks -- for a century

A New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust team restoring an Antarctic hut used more than a century ago by the renowned polar explorer Ernest Shackleton has made what promises to be a delicious find.

Five crates of MacKinlay’s Rare Old Scotch whisky and two crates of brandy left behind in 1909 were uncovered. Al Fastier, the team leader, said ice cracked some other bottles but these crates have intact bottles.

The Scottish distiller Whyte & Mackay. which bought the MacKinlay’s company, financed the attempt to recover the Scotch. The goal: to test it and decide whether to relaunch the now-defunct spirit.

The brandy was made by Hunter Valley Distillery Ltd. of Allandale, Australia.

Other restoration workers had found the crates under the hut’s floorboards back in 2006, but they were too deeply embedded in ice to be removed. Although the New Zealanders freed up some of the bottles, the remainder must, by conservation guidelines of the 12 Antarctic Treaty nation members, remain.

They were part of the provisions for the SS Nimrod expedition that ran from 1907 to 1909. Shackleton (above left) ordered evacuation of the site as encroaching sea ice put the crew in danger.

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