The Whisky Tasting Club

Up close and personal with one of the world’s rarest whiskies

One of my most prized whisky possessions is a small vial with about 1cl of whisky in it.

It’s just a drop of the original Mackinlay’s whisky which Ernest Shackleton took to the Antarctic more than 100 years ago and which was abandoned there.

I know it’s genuine because I watched Richard Paterson pour it for me, and he told me it was the real thing. And even if I hadn’t seen him pour it I would have believed him, because the whole whisky tent is built on the poles of honesty and integrity, and very few people are more committed to keeping it that way than Richard.

There was a window after I first received the sample when I had a choice of either drinking the whisky or keeping it, but that’s long gone now. Such a small amount of liquid with so much air in the vial is now way past drinking. But I had decided to keep it anyway, and for three reasons.

One, because I know what it tastes like. I have tasted the Mackinlays replica and Dave Broom has tasted both the original and the replica, and says that they taste very similar, so that’s good enough for me.

Second, I can take my small sample to tasting events and tell my audience the amazing story behind Shackleton’s whisky, and how it ended up being recreated. It’s an engaging story and the audience buys in to the drama of it because it trusts me and believes in what I’m saying.

And thirdly, and most importantly, it reminds me of that day when Richard Paterson poured it for me, an amazing evening when I was introduced to a whole range of rare and wonderful whiskies by one of the industry’s greatest advocates.

I couldn’t sell the vial of Mackinlays, even if I could prove it was genuine, so in some ways it is valueless. For me, though, it is utterly priceless.

In his foreword to my 1001 Whiskies To Try Before You Die book, published next May, Jim Murray talks about how every whisky has its own story and every person has their own interpretation of the story from their own experience with that whisky. That’s the essence of it.

There’s been a lot of debate recently about whether you should invest in whisky, and somewhat moronically it’s been suggested that there’s a straight choice between the worthy act of drinking whisky and the crime of buying and keeping it. I would say it’s possible to argue completely the opposite. When you drink a whisky it’s gone. I’ve invested in whisky and every bottle I’ve bought I’d like to drink. All my whiskies are on display in my office, and I look at them regularly. Each one tells me a story and brings my whisky alive.

Which brings me to the sample in front of me – The Dalmore Zenith. Only one bottle exists of it, and it’s currently being toured through The Whisky Shop estate as part of a closed auction for which the minimum bid is £50,000.

Let’s say the final price is £70,000. that makes my sample worth £2000.

Can any drink be worth that? No, of course not. But if someone thinks it’s worth paying that to own the memory and the story then that’s what it’s worth.

Is there any point in tasting it? Well it proves it’s not cold tea, but after that not really. Several bids are in for it so it’s sold already. Doesn’t make tasting it any less daunting though.

So let’s cut to the chase shall we?

The Dalmore Zenith 43%

Don’t normally describe colour, but this is deepest gold, like clear dark honey or maple syrup

Nose: and there’s some maple syrup on the nose, too, as well as some juicy orange, and a strong air of Spotted Dick – sweet suet pudding with currants. It’s a hefty, even meaty nose, but very very pleasant.

Palate: Very intense, and the venerable age of the whisky is immediately apparent, with oak up front and a certain astringency throughout. But it’s a fabulously balanced whisky, with blood orange, marzipan, Christmas cake, bitter cherry, dark chocolate and a hint of mint. It’s an assertive taste, but is smooth and honeycombed on the palate.

Finish: not as long as I’d expected, but the oak and pepper fall away and leave currant and cherry cake mix. Very, very good indeed.

Score? Well if I must, 95

And that’s that. Less than five minutes of dramming excellence after days of preparation and build up. But wow, this is some whisky…

Ed: The whisky shop are running a competition to win 5CL of the Zenith. Click here

This entry was posted in Whisky Tastings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Comment