Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an event like no other. I can say unequivocally, that nowhere else in the world has there ever been a more complete congregation of the world’s finest rare and ultra rare whiskys than at the Nth Universal Whisky Experience held at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas last weekend. The entire show was a “who’s who” within the world of Scotch whisky, but for me, one dram in particular stood out from its extravagant brethren, the Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky (The Shackleton). Prior to the event, I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar hosted by world renowned whisky expert Robert Paterson that focused on the truly amazing origin story of the Mackinlay’s Rare Old.
As some of you may recall from your high school history classes, in 1907 Ernest Shakleton embarked upon his “nimrod” expedition to reach the South Pole. Upon completion of his base camp, Shakleton order 25 cases of malt scotch and 12 cases of brandy in order to fortify his men and defend them against the brutal sub-zero tundra conditions. Nearly a hundred year later, those same cases of scotch that joined Shakleton and his men on their endeavor were discovered during a renovation of the base camp by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust. A total of three cases of scotch were exhumed from their icy encasement and out of those 3 cases only one case was released into the care of Richard Paterson of Whyte & Mackay so that he might study and eventually recreate the exquisitely aged dram.
The case was flown to the Canterbury museum in Christchurch, New Zealand and after a long period of controlled thawing, Paterson used a hypodermic needle, to preserve the original cork and the liquid gold trapped inside, and extracted a small sample of the whisky, now considered an item of great historical importance. Following an unprecedented series of scientific analysis and phenol content tests, and along with the help of flavor profile matching software, Paterson worked his way through a plethora of test samples derived from over 35 different variants of speyside whiskys in order to find the perfect profile match. Once he settled on one, the real work began. Paterson had to find the perfect Dalmore whisky to blend with his alpha-speyside. He choose to use a Dalmore due to its powerful smoky peat profile allowing him to balance the apple, pear, and pineapple citrus notes contained within his speyside. When Paterson felt he had matched, as closely as is possible, all of the flavor and visual profiles of the original (3.5% phenol content and 47.3% ABV) the concoction was bottled, cased, and shipped worldwide.
The bottle is gorgeous and has been meticulously recreated in order to preserve the look of the original packaging. Paterson went as far as to include long strands of wood shavings in each bottle’s box to mimick the original use of straw husks wrapped around each bottle for protection during long voyages. The nose of the Mackinlay’s is bright with citrus notes like crushed apples and pears with a hint of cherry wood. The liquid itself is a beautiful bronze and has absolutely no traces of sediment. On the palette the Rare Old is excellent and very soft with notes of cherry wood, dried fruit, crushed almonds, medium spice, and a moderate sweetness that balances the Spanish and White Oak barreled Dalmore’s pungent peat smoke. This is truly a unique and exceptional whisky that needs to be on everyone’s bucket list. As far as I know, all of the Mackinlay’s Rare Old has already been spoken for, but the occasional bottle does turn up every once in a while and should retail for around $200.00 a bottle if you happen to come across one.
The Shakleton Recreation was just one of several seminars available at the Universal Whisky Experience and we will have a lot more post event coverage to come over the next several weeks. So if you fancy yourself a whisky connoisseur, be sure to check back in frequently as we have a number of ultra rare and in some cases, never released whiskys to review.