Thursday 19 December 2013

PR #15: Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky Australian re-release

It seems there's barely a distillery or blender in existence these days who don't release a special/limited release in one form or another, often with an exciting or unusual back story. Whilst many of them are interesting, unusual, rare (and importantly - often great drams), it would be hard to find a whisky with a more fascinating back story than Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt.

Whisky fans may remember this one from last year - it enjoyed a brief but exciting release through Dan Murphy's in Australia, then seemed to disappear quickly. The good news is, it's back - just in time for Christmas.

Those unfamiliar may be wondering what makes this whisky so special. To explain, we need to step back 114 years...

Over 1907-1909, explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton led a team on the gruelling British Antarctic Expedition, which saw them fall just short of their goal by less than 100 miles. During the expedition, they stored several crates of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt under a hut at Cape Royds (hey, who wouldn't want a dram after hundreds of miles of Antarctic expedition) which were left behind upon their return.

Fast forward to February 2007, and a team from the NZ Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered the crates. After much negotiation, three of the bottles made their way to Scotland, for expert analysis and re-creation by Whyte & Mackay, led by Richard Paterson (aka "The Nose"). To quote Richard:
“There can’t be a better gift for those that love history, adventure or whisky. Shackleton himself chose this whisky to keep the morale of his brave colleagues in harsh, cold conditions."
"The bottles recovered from the bitter Antarctic ice were carefully thawed and meticulously analysed to ensure our recreation of Shackleton’s whisky perfectly resembled the original malt from 1907. The result is a shimmering light honey colour, with a soft, elegant and refined aroma. "
"Detailed nosing reveals delicate notes of crushed apple, pear and fresh pineapple with notes of oak shavings, smoke and hints of buttery vanilla, creamy caramel and nutmeg. The tasting reveals an enduring spirit that has plenty of impact on the palate; a tantalising array of flavours that is both harmonious and exhilarating.”
Drawing upon their immense library of whiskies and using scientific analysis of the original bottles' contents, Richard and the W&M team were able to determine the make-up of the original whisky (47.3%, sherry cask matured, lightly peated, likely from whisky made at Glen Mhor), and faithfully re-create it, for the benefit of Whisky fans everywhere. The result is Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt (Discovery Edition), a release of 50,000 bottles.

TimeforWhisky was kindly sent a bottle recently, and I have to say it's the most comprehensive and impressive "packages" I've seen for any whisky. I say "package" because it's more than just a bottle in an impressive box. As well as the authentic, untreated timber crate-like box, the package includes:

  • A comprehensive 26 page booklet detailing the story of the whisky
  • A plan of Shackleton's Hut
  • Maps and timelines of the original journey
  • A copy of a letter from Ernest Shackleton to his wife in 1908 
  • Photographs from the expedition
  • Diary extracts from the expedition
  • Quotes from Ernest Shackleton
  • A second colour booklet detailing the whisky's journey from ice to W&M, to store shelves; and
  • Of course, a 700mL bottle of the whisky itself.

The authenticity isn't just limited to the contents of the bottle either - the bottle itself is a recreation, with rippled, bubbled glass and an ancient label as the photo below shows (if it were any other whisky, you'd think they needed to get their Quality Control in order)!


A whisky this unique deserves its own "Tasted" post, which will be posted shortly. In summary though, this is a whisky with an incredible back story and it tastes quite impressive too. Definitely one to consider as a Christmas present for any whisky fans in your life (or a Christmas treat for yourself).

 - Martin.

Note: There is also a "Journey Edition" of this whisky, which I've yet to see in Australia, but hopefully it makes its way here soon (and not just because it's a #101drams whisky!

A big thanks to momentum2 and Whyte & Mackay for the sample bottle.

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