Category Archive 'Whiskey'

05 Feb 2010

Shackleton’s Whiskey Recovered

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Wikipedia describes Ernest Shackleton’s unsuccessful Nimrod Expedition of 1907-1909:

Nimrod arrived at McMurdo Sound on 29 January, but was stopped by ice 16 miles (26 km) north of Discovery’s old base at Hut Point. After considerable weather delays, Shackleton’s base was eventually established at Cape Royds, about 24 miles (39 km) north of Hut Point. The party was in high spirits, despite the difficult conditions; Shackleton’s ability to communicate with each man kept the party happy and focused.

The “Great Southern Journey”, as Frank Wild called it, began on 19 October 1908. On 9 January 1909 Shackleton and three companions (Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams) reached a new Farthest South latitude of 88°23’S, a point only 112 miles (180 km) from the Pole. En route the South Pole party discovered the Beardmore Glacier, (named after Shackleton’s patron), and became the first persons to see and travel on the South Polar Plateau. Their return journey to McMurdo Sound was a race against starvation, on half-rations for much of the way. At one point Shackleton gave his one biscuit allotted for the day to the ailing Frank Wild, who wrote in his diary: “All the money that was ever minted would not have bought that biscuit and the remembrance of that sacrifice will never leave me”. They arrived at Hut Point just in time to catch the ship.

The expedition’s other main accomplishments included the first ascent of Mount Erebus, and the discovery of the approximate location of the South Magnetic Pole, reached on 16 January 1909 by Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Alistair Mackay. Shackleton returned to the United Kingdom as a hero, and soon afterwards published his expedition account, The Heart of the Antarctic. Emily Shackleton later recorded: “The only comment he made to me about not reaching the Pole was “a live donkey is better than a dead lion, isn’t it?” and I said “Yes darling, as far as I am concerned.”

AFP describes the triumphant recovery of some historic relics of Shackleton’s expedition.

Five crates of whisky and brandy belonging to polar explorer Ernest Shackleton have been recovered after being buried for more than 100 years under the Antarctic ice, explorers said Friday.

The spirits were excavated from beneath Shackleton’s Antarctic hut which was built in 1908.

“To our amazement we found five crates, three labelled as containing whisky and two labelled as containing brandy,” said Al Fastier of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, who previously believed there were only two crates.

“The unexpected find of the brandy crates, one labelled Chas Mackinlay & Co and the other labelled The Hunter Valley Distillery Limited Allandale are a real bonus.”

Some of the crates have cracked and ice has formed inside which will make the job of extracting the contents delicate.

However, Fastier said the trust was confident the crates contained intact alcohol, given that liquid could be heard when the crates were moved.

The smell of whisky in the surrounding ice also indicated full bottles of spirits were inside, albeit that one or more might have broken.

Richard Paterson, master blender at Whyte and Mackay, whose company supplied the Mackinlay’s whisky for Shackleton, described the find as “a gift from the heavens” for whisky lovers.

“If the contents can be confirmed, safely extracted and analysed, the original blend may be able to be replicated,” he said.

“Given the original recipe no longer exists this may open a door into history.”…
Shackleton’s expedition ran short of supplies on their long trek to the South Pole from Cape Royds in 1907-1909 and they eventually fell about 100 miles (160 kilometres) short of their goal.

No lives were lost, vindicating Shackleton’s decision to turn back from the pole, first reached in 1911 by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

Shackleton’s expedition sailed from Cape Royds hurriedly in 1909 as winter ice began forming in the sea, forcing them to leave some equipment and supplies — including the whisky — behind.

You can see just how much the world has descended into pettyfoggying regulatory statism in the course of the unhappy ensuing century in this detail noted by another news service:

The New Zealanders agreed to drill the ice to try to retrieve some bottles, although the rest must stay under conservation guidelines agreed to by 12 Antarctic Treaty nations.

Mustn’t retrieve historic hundred-year-old abandoned Scotch from the Antarctic wastes! That would be removing something.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

17 Jun 2009

Boutique Malt Whiskey from Virginia

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I was surprised upon arriving in the Old Dominion to find that Virginia is a serious wine-making state, possibly even comparable to New York. Today, I found, in the Atlantic, this article by Clay Risen on Rick Wasmund, described as a “rogue tinkerer” and “mad scientist” who is bent upon hand-crafting an American single malt whiskey beneath the shadow of the Blue Ridge, deep in the wilds of Rappahannock County.

(Since 2006, Wasmund has been) working in his basement on crazy inventions no one understands and no one expects to work. Until one day they do.

Wasmund is the owner, and just about the only employee, of the Copper Fox Distillery, a microscopic outfit nestled against the Shenandoah Mountains in Sperryville, Va. The operation was born from Wasmund’s dream to create a Scotch-style whiskey in the States (Scotch has to come from Scotland to bear the name). Wasmund is not alone: A half-dozen craft distillers, mostly on the West Coast, are churning out malt whiskeys, and most are faithful versions of their Highland brethren.

But Wasmund didn’t just want to recreate a style; he wanted to revolutionize it. Instead of aging the whiskey in barrels, letting the wood flavors seep into the liquor over years and years, Wasmund figured he could get unique results much more quickly–six months–by steeping a teabag of woodchips in the distillate, and that doing so would give him unique control over his whiskey’s flavor profile. …

Wasmund’s is getting better with each batch. Wasmund continues to improve his skills and process. And skepticism is turning into grudging appreciation; liquor sellers who two years ago told me Wasmund was on a fool’s errand are now saying he could be the next big thing, nationally.

Sounds interesting to me.

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