Tag Archives: Shackleton

Shackleton, Blended Malt, 40%

If this whisky was branded with an own label supermarket store logo at an attractive price I’d have been happy.

The nose was suitably soft – a slight hint of smoke being the only noticeable element.

The taste had that cloying caramel feel – common among entry level expressions – but was relatively inoffensive & pleasant.

Whilst the finish gave a soft warming kick that lasted a decent amount of time.

Overall – no real surprises here – a perfectly ordinary everyday whisky.

But this is no own label.

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Shacklton Whisky backstory c/othewhiskeynut

It’s attractively packaged & presented with the wonderfully adventurous back story of Shackleton & his Antarctic exploits. The tale of how his bunch of hardy men brought Mackinlay’s Old Highland Malt with them to fortify their spirits against the freezing temperatures & biting gales. About how some of the bottles were left behind in the abandoned hut for over 100 years in the permafrost only to be rediscovered, re-engineered & recreated by the brand owners Whyte & Mackay today in this current bottling.

All fabulous stuff.

It’s just a pity the actual whisky inside the bottle doesn’t quite match up to the heroic struggles those early explorers faced on the ice-fields.

An earlier recreation of those bottles certainly had character & robustness that made you feel by drinking it you were somehow part of Shackleton’s crew. Bottled at 47.5% the 2nd edition was presented in an elaborate package including maps & photographs of the 1907 expedition and even a retro designed bottle to match the original. Now that was a whisky to sink your teeth into.

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Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt c/othewhiskeynut

This current 40% rendition is sadly lacking.

It’s no better – or worse – than an own label brand & I was expecting something – well – more.

My only consolation is that a donation from every bottle sold goes towards the Antarctic Heritage Trust to preserve Shackleton’s Hut & encourage further exploration and adventure.

For those that would like to know more about Irish born Ernest Shackleton & his adventures, I’d recommend the Athy Heritage Centre – Museum. Located only a few miles from Shackleton’s birthplace in Kilkea House, Kildare, the museum houses the only permanent exhibition to Shackleton & shows many original artefacts, photos, cine & even an empty bottle of the recreated whisky found at the 1907 hut in the Antarctic.


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A Tale Of Two Whiskies.

National Heritage Week was held from the 22nd to 30th August this year in Ireland.

It is a wonderful occasion celebrating the rich built – varied natural and diverse cultural heritage of Ireland with events taking place in all the counties.

Attending one of these events was the suggestion of the better half a few weeks ago and I spotted an outing to Athy in County Kildare that would satisfy both our interests – tick a few of the heritage boxes – as well as a little whiskey on the way!

The built heritage

Athy Market House was originally built around 1730 – subsequently became the Town Hall – and now houses the Shackleton Museum.

The historical heritage

Ernest Shackleton – arguably one of the most famous and heroic figures from the polar expedition era of the early 1900’s – was born in Kilkea County Kildare only a few miles from Athy which now has the only permanent exhibition to his exploits in the frozen south.

Shackleton's Plaque in Athy c/o whiskeynut
Shackleton’s Plaque in Athy c/o whiskeynut

The whisky heritage

Shackleton made 4 trips to Antarctica during his lifetime. His attempt to reach the South Pole in 1907 ended in failure – he turned back with only 97 miles to go to save the lives of himself and his fellow crew members – but his heroics – and achieving the furthest south ever at that time – launched him into fame.

What often gets over-looked in these polar daring do adventures however are the mundane things – like a wee dram for the crew.

In the rush to safely evacuate all the expedition members off the frozen landscape before another antarctic winter set in some items were left behind. These items sat underneath the hut the crew lived in for almost a year during their attempt to reach the pole. In 2007 – hut restoration workers discovered cases of whisky. These were carefully excavated from the ice where they had lain for 100 years. After many negotiations – some bottles were returned to Scotland from whence they came – sampled – tasted – designated excellent! – and a decision taken to recreate them. The result is simply stunning.

Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt c/o whiskeynut
Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt c/o whiskeynut

Mackinlay’s Old Highland Malt is a superb whisky boosted by an even more extraordinary story. I for one would not have left any bottles behind after having tasted it! Rich – smooth – lightly peated – strong yet balanced – it rates as one of the best whiskies I’ve had.

The second whisky

In 1914 Shackleton again returned to the polar regions to attempt the first trans-polar crossing of Antarctica. They didn’t even make it to land as the ship got stuck in the ice – drifted – got crushed – sank – leaving the men to camp on the ice until reaching open sea where they sailed in their lifeboats to the relative safety on the uninhabited Elephant Island. From there – Shackleton – together with a crew of 5 including Tom Crean from Kerry and Tim McCarthy from Kinsale – made the most daring sea crossing ever attempted in an open boat across 800 miles of treacherous ocean to get help at the whaling station in South Georgia. Unbelievably they successfully made this crossing and went on to rescue all 28 crew members after almost 2 years cut off from the rest of the world. This was undoubtedly Shackleton’s finest hour.

Whisky was also on this voyage. Sadly the chances of finding an intact bottle after having been crushed by ice and submerged in the Antarctic Ocean for 100 years are pretty slim – but then you need not worry. An easy stroll down to your local whisky emporium will suffice.

Vat 69 whisky c/o whiskeynut
Vat 69 whisky c/o whiskeynut

Vat 69 was the chosen brand on this ill fated voyage.

Now it isn’t a patch on Old Mackinlay’s – nor is it as pricey – but it is surprisingly smooth and tasty for what is an entry level blend created by William Sanderson of Leith back in 1882 and now in the Diageo stable. I can see why it has been a popular tipple for over 130 years!

Whatever else about Shackleton – as The Cramps used to sing – he had “good taste” when it came to whisky!

The written heritage

Those that like a good read whilst sipping their favourite dram may be pleased to know both these whiskies come with books!

Shackleton's Whisky book c/o whiskeynut
Shackleton’s Whisky book c/o whiskeynut

Shackleton’s Whisky by Neville Peat is not only the story of Shackleton’s daring adventures – but the story of how the whisky that eventually bore his name miraculously came to be found and ultimately recreated for our enjoyment today. It’s also the story of the ups and downs of the whisky industry in Scotland as well as it’s enduring legacy.

Seaspray and Whiskey c/o whiskeynut
Seaspray and Whiskey c/o whiskeynut

Seaspray and Whisky by Norman Freeman is a different kettle of book as is the whisky it features. A salty tale of seamen taking freely from the cargo of Vat 69 they should have been safely transporting across the Atlantic aboard an old freighter. Anyone who has ever been on a sea voyage can relate to the tall tales – larger than life characters and shore based exploits that the crew of the MV Allenwell indulge in – it certainly brought a smile to my face and a few memories of my brief time in the merchant fleet!

So there you go.

A tale of 2 whiskies in 2 books.

I hope you enjoy them all as much as I did!


Whiskey Nut

Black & White & Golden Dram

When asked to contribute a flight of whiskies for a recent blog, I took a little while to come up with a few favourites. As the story of a whiskey – it’s origins, manufacture, history, heritage and trivia – are as important and enjoyable to me as the tasting – my flight reflects that element.

The story around my Black& White is the basis of this blog.

My Black & White c/o thewhiskeynut
My Black & White c/o thewhiskeynut

A few months ago after a recently acquired contract at work, the decision was taken to renovate the old office space that had lain idle for at least a decade. One of the founding directors had also passed away during that time and the offices had effectively been left abandoned.

There was a mountain of old paperwork,artefacts, pictures, memorabilia as well as outdated phones, electronica and files. Most of it was destined for the skip – but there were a few surprises and items that required attention before removal.

Word soon spread around the yard that a cache of booze had been found.Now the firm had previously been involved in drinks distribution and this may have been a relic from those times – I had to have a look!

Mt eyes lit up and my tastebuds tingled when I viewed a collection of old whiskey, cognac, vodka and gin bottles stored in a locked metal cabinet. There was some Famous Grouse, a Black Bush, Hennessy, some unidentified clear spirits and a Black & White – all with old and aged looking labels.

Old Black & White label c/o thewhiskeynut
Old Black & White label c/o thewhiskeynut

This was an opportunity too good to miss – especially as I hadn’t sampled the whiskies before – so I approached management for a quiet word and after a day or two – became the proud owner of a bottle of Black & White!

Several questions then raised themselves;

How old is it?

Is it worth anything?

Should I drink it?

Is it palatable?

My mind was already decided on the last 2. Whiskey is for drinking – not sitting on a shelf as some kind of object to be admired (although some bottles do look like a piece of art) or seen as a potential pension plan. The contents of the bottle appeared golden clear and despite the dusty outside gave me no cause for concern regards it’s suitability to consume.

I did however delay a little on the first 2 – mostly out of curiosity and the off chance it was worth a few bob.

It quickly became apparent that there was indeed a market for old Black & White – mainly advertising material and pre-1930’s 700ml bottles – but as mine was only a half bottle and not that old – I wasn’t about to drink a goldmine!

As for the date – well that proved a tad more difficult.

I was surprised to find Black & White had no dedicated website, facebook, twitter, instagram, chat show or even TV channel as part of it’s marketing strategy. For such a longstanding and popular dram – created by James Buchanan in the 1880’s where it became a big seller and continues to be so today – and now part of the Diageo stable – this seems somewhat amiss.

I put some snaps up on a whisky chat site – followed up a few leads and eventually got an informed reply to an email;

Black & White barcode c/o thewhiskeynut
Black & White barcode c/o thewhiskeynut
“Additionally, there is a bar-code on the back of the bottle,which was something not widely in use prior to about 1980.”
This was later narrowed down a bit by Diageo GB in a tweet;

we sure can! our archivists inform us it’s from between 1985-1991 as this label was used in that time period