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Shackleton's whisky finally sees daylight

Published: 3:30PM Friday August 13, 2010 Source: NZPA/ONE News

Bottles of whisky left in the Antarctic more than a century ago, have finally seen the light of day.

Five crates of rare Mackinlay's whisky were buried below explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island around 1909. It was only discovered three years ago.

Shackleton ordered the then 10-year-old whisky for his 1907 Nimrod expedition which turned him into a hero and gave him a reputation as one of the greatest explorers of all time.

Antarctic New Zealand removed one of those crates in January to restore it

Even though the crates of whisky were frozen solid when they were brought back, the minus 30 degree C temperatures were not enough to freeze the whisky and it was in remarkably good condition.

Over the past few weeks the crate had been slowly thawing in a special room set up by the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Today in a painstakingly slow and careful manoeuvre, the crate was opened to reveal not 12 but 11 bottles of Scotch whisky, carefully wrapped in paper and straw to protect them from the rigours of a rough trip to the Southern Ocean in 1907.

One of the 11 bottles was not as full as the other 10 and it was suspected the twelfth bottle might have been drunk by a member of Shackleton's crew of the Nimrod who could not resist the temptation.

The whisky is unlikely ever to be tasted and once samples have been extracted and sent to the Scottish distillery which took over the Mackinlay's distillery many years ago, they will go back to their original home under the floor of Shackleton's hut in Cape Royds on Ross Island near McMurdo Sound.

The original recipe for the whisky has been lost but Whyte and Mackay, which now own the Mackinlay brand, intend to replicate Shackleton's brew from the sample.

"We would probably call it Shackleton's Whisky, the Mackinley Shackleton's Whisky, but the main thing is to try and replicate it," said Richard Paterson of Whyte & Mackay.

Nigel Watson, executive director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, said opening the crate was a delicate and slow process.

The crate would remain in cold storage and each of the bottles would be carefully assessed and conserved in the next few weeks.