This August (2023), my wife and I set out on a journey to the lush landscapes of Ireland. Before our adventure, I got deep into Irish whiskey, exploring Drew Hannush’s engaging book, “Experiencing Irish Whiskey,” and his interesting podcasts as “Whiskey Lore.” His words and stories revealed the rich history of Irish whiskey, the distilleries and the tales behind each glass.

Our adventure didn’t stop at whiskey. Drew’s podcasts also took me on a journey through the legendary stories of Ernest Shackleton and his incredible Antarctic adventures. The icy wilderness, the unyielding spirit of Shackleton’s team, and their incredible challenges left a lasting impression on me. Their journey showed the strength and bravery of humans in the face of immense challenges.

Before we headed to Ireland, I had also delved into other books about Irish whiskey, learning about the long history and craftsmanship of this beloved drink. Little did I know that our Irish journey would connect us with Shackleton’s epic story, the heroic Tom Crean, and the story of whiskey frozen in the Antarctic ice.

Our travels led us to the lovely town of Killarney, where we checked in at the Earls Court House. Little did we know that our room, Room 315, was named after Tom Crean. It was there, under the roof named after him, that I discovered the fascinating link between Tom Crean and Shackleton’s famous expeditions.

Tom Crean, an unassuming hero, played a crucial role in Shackleton’s team during the challenging Endurance Expedition. As the second officer, his bravery and resourcefulness were essential to the team’s survival. Crean wasn’t just a sailor; he was a central figure in Shackleton’s triumphant journey to safety.

The saga continued with the story of Shackleton’s whisky, a story I had already uncovered before coming to Ireland. Shackleton had brought 25 cases of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky for his British Antarctic Expedition of 1907. However, when the expedition didn’t reach the South Pole, the whisky was left buried under the ice, beneath the expedition’s hut.

In 2007, nearly a century later, two cases of this whisky were uncovered by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust. One of these cases was flown to Canterbury Museum in New Zealand, where it underwent a careful thawing process.

As the ice melted, the conservation team made an incredible discovery โ€“ 11 bottles, with ten of them still intact, wrapped in the original protective paper and straw from the cases. This extraordinary find led to the challenge of recreating the whisky and its packaging.

This astonishing discovery led to an ambitious endeavor: the replication of Shackleton’s whisky. The trust, along with whisky experts, embarked on the meticulous process of recreating this century-old elixir. Richard Paterson of Whyte & Mackay, a master blender, played a central role in replicating the whisky’s flavor and essence
In 2011, the team began the endeavor of recreating the whisky, blending malts from Dalmore and Glen Mhor with spirits from Speyside, spanning from 8 to 30 years of aging. The result was a replica of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, allowing us to taste a piece of history.

In 2011, the replicated whisky was released, allowing us to enjoy a taste of history and connect with the adventurous spirit of Shackleton’s expedition. It was a real link to the past, a chance to share in the same spirit that had strengthened Shackleton’s crew against the harshest of conditions.

But the story doesn’t end there. In March 2022, the world was treated to yet another amazing discoveryโ€”the rediscovery of the long-lost ship, the Endurance, the same ship that had been trapped in the icy grip of the Antarctic. This discovery reignited interest in Shackleton’s legacy and the enduring allure of his expeditions.

Today, you can still enjoy the spirit of Shackleton with a replica of his iconic whisky, “Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt.” It’s a blended malt Scotch whisky with a 47.3% alcohol content, crafted by Whyte & Mackay. Inspired by Shackleton’s journey, this second edition of the whisky has refined the original blend, making it a tribute to the explorer’s enduring legacy.

Another whisky inspired by Shackleton’s legacy is “Mackinlay’s The Journey,” a recreation of the century-old Mackinlay’s blended scotch. It allows more people to taste history and raises funds for the preservation of expedition bases in Antarctica.

Our journey through Ireland not only immersed us in the world of whiskey and the spirit of exploration but also connected us to the remarkable stories of Shackleton, Crean, and the timeless allure of a hidden treasure buried in the Antarctic ice. It’s a journey that brought history to life, linking us to the heroes and adventurers who dared to explore the ends of the Earth.

By Whisky Adventurer

Behind the name Whisky Adventurer is Lars Modvig Hesselberg. In short, I enjoy immersing myself in all aspects of the whisky world. I enjoy the stories, the people, the scents, the development, the taste, the variety, the big ones, the small ones, the distilleries and much more. Telling and passing on knowledge and experiences through speech, writing and pictures is a big part of the whole experience for me.