The Whisky Tasting Club

Whisky in Ice?

Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt

Whisky and history are natural partners, and one complements the other perfectly. So news that a cache of whisky had been found in a camp abandoned by Shackleton more than 100 years ago was cause for escitement and expectation.

When you hear of the drama of Shackleton’s retreat from his Antarctic trek – the sea started freezing so rapidly around his ship that the camp had to be abandoned immediately, leaving supplies including whisky behind – it’s like opening a window in to the past.

And then the somewhat bizarre and melodramatic circumstances surrounding the release of some of the whisky for analysis, which included Whyte & Mackay boss Vijay Mallya sending his personal plane to New Zealand to collect it – just raised the interest levels.

And after analysis by Richard Paterson we now have a recreation of that whisky. It’s called Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, it has a strength of 47.3%, and it will retail for £100.

money from its sale will go to the Shackleton Foundation and the release will be limited to 50,000, the majority of which will go in to collections.

So is all this recreation malarkey a lot of hot air, general exploitation and smoke and mirrors? Or are we looking at something special?

There’s talk that this includes rare malts such as Glen Mhor, and that the original whisky was high in Glen Mhor content. There was talk of being a heavy Highland blend. So the light colour is the first surprise.

The first of several…

Nose: stunning. Complex, evolving, delicate, and very fresh and zippy, this has buttercups and spring fields with lemon trees in the mix. But there’s a waft of cigarette smoke, too, like someone nipped out in to the garden for a smoke.

Palate: The grapefruit and lemon heart is wrapped with fragrant sherbet, but it’s altogether fuller and richer than the nose might suggest. Smouldering smoke and peaky paprika pepper try to outflank the fruit but fail to do so, and the whisky holds out, balanced perfectly.

Finish: Medium, balanced and with quiet order restored, it exits gently.

Conclusion: I have no idea how good a recreation this is, or whether it’s what Shackleton would have tasted. I do know that this is stunning, a world class 90 plus whisky. If anyone ever wants to understand the sophisticated nature of great blending this is it. Would I buy it? Without a doubt. And I’d open it and drink every last drop.

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