Charity toasts windfall from Antarctic whisky find

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A charity that recovered a cache of whisky abandoned in Antarctica more than 100 years ago is set to reap a windfall after a Scottish distillery painstakingly recreated the historic tipple.

The Mackinlay's scotch belonged to British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1907-08 Antarctic expedition and was left beneath a hut on the frozen continent after his attempt to reach the South Pole failed.

The Christchurch-based Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) found the whisky in 2006 while carrying out conservation work on Shackleton's hut, and shipped a crate containing 11 bottles to New Zealand last year.

The wooden crate, marked "British Antarctic Expedition 1907", was frozen solid in temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) -- but the whisky in the bottles was still liquid.

After the crate was thawed out, Whyte and Mackay, which owns the Mackinlay's brand, flew three bottles to its Scottish distillery, where it was analysed by master blender Richard Paterson in laboratory conditions.

AHT chief executive Nigel Watson said the recipe for the original scotch had been lost but Peterson had blended a range of malts to recreate it for a limited edition run of 50,000 bottles costing 100 pounds ($160) each.

Watson said the AHT would receive five percent of the proceeds, giving it a potential windfall of $400,000 for its work preserving historic sites in Antarctica.

"From start to finish, it's taken almost four years to safely extract the whisky crate from site and then Antarctica, thaw it in museum conditions, secure permits and complete scientific analysis in Scotland," he said.

Whisky writer David Broom, the only person apart from Paterson to sample the recovered scotch, said its taste was a revelation, describing it as unexpectedly delicate "with a touch of smoke just at the finish".

"There has been a common assumption that everything made about 100 years ago would be bolder and bigger, with more dried fruit characters from sherry casks and considerably more smoke," Broom told Radio New Zealand.

"So when Richard and I tasted this, we were quite taken aback, not just at the quality but also at the relative delicacy of style."

Two more crates of whisky, along with two of brandy, were also found in the hut but were left under the floorboards.

The crate that was taken to New Zealand would originally have held 12 bottles but one was missing when it was found, raising the possibility that Shackleton or a colleague helped himself to one to ward off the polar chill.

© 2011 AFP

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