Experts believe they have uncovered a secret drinker on Sir Ernest Shackleton's polar expedition after opening a crate of whisky buried under Antarctic ice for 100 years. The whisky, bottled for the renowned British explorer's 1907 expedition, was excavated from beneath his Antarctic hut earlier this year and taken to Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The Mackinlay's whisky crate was frozen solid but the minus 30 degrees Celsius (-22F) temperature was not enough to freeze the liquid. The crate has been painstakingly thawed in controlled conditions over the past few weeks and was opened Friday to reveal only 11 bottles of Scotch, carefully wrapped in paper and straw for protection.
One bottle was missing and one of the surviving 11 was not as full as the other 10, leading museum officials to speculate that a member of Shackleton's crew may have helped himself before carefully securing the crate again.
The bottles were lying on their side and had cork stoppers with an intricate and stamped lead seal.
Officials said the whisky was unlikely to be tasted but samples would be extracted and sent to distillers Whyte and Mackay, which now owns the Mackinlay's brand, to replicate Shackleton's tipple. Richard Paterson, master blender at Whyte and Mackay, has described the find as "a gift from the heavens" for whisky lovers.
Michael Milne, who runs a specialist whisky store in Christchurch, was at the crate opening and said the crate was in good condition.
"The box was like a pioneer's box with the wood and nails coming out but it's in very good nick with straw packaging sticking out," Mr Milne said.
The whisky was labelled as a highland malt and the label also referred to Shackleton's ship Endurance, which he used in a 1914 expedition, and not the Nimrod on which he sailed in 1907.
"Whether it is a single malt or a blended malt we don't know because there was no indication on the label," Mr Milne said.
He said the whisky was probably distilled in 1896 or 1897 as Shackleton had ordered 10-year-old whisky.
This Scotch was on the Rocks for 100 Years.