January 17, 2011 3:38:00 PM
Three bottles of whisky abandoned in the Antarctic ice by British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton more than a century ago returned home to Scotland on Monday.
The bottles of Mackinlay's were part of a cache recovered last year from beneath Shackleton's Antarctic hut, built in 1908 as part of his failed attempt to reach the South Pole.
They made it home Monday to Whyte and Mackay, the brand's owner, for analysis to see how they have fared after so long preserved in the polar chill.
The wooden crate containing the whisky, marked British Antarctic Expedition 1907, was frozen solid in the minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures but the whisky in the bottles was still liquid.
Two more crates of whisky, along with two of brandy, were also discovered but they were left under the floorboards of the hut.
The whisky is believed to have been bottled in Scotland in 1896 or 1897, making it among the oldest in the world.
Richard Paterson, Whyte and Mackay's master blender, said the analysis would be "for the benefit of the whisky industry".
"Never in the history of our industry have we had a century-old bottle of whisky stored in a natural fridge and subjected to some of the harshest conditions on this planet," he said.
"It is an absolute honour to be able to use my experience to analyse this amazing spirit."
For the next six weeks, the whisky will be analysed, nosed, and tasted in full laboratory conditions.
The Antarctic Heritage Trust shipped the crate to Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, where it was painstakingly thawed in controlled conditions, allowing historians to get to the bottles inside.
The bottles are so rare and valuable that Whyte and Mackay's owner Vijay Mallya personally collected them and flew them back to Scotland.
"Shackleton made history with his travels and adventures, and I am sure we will make history ourselves when we unlock the marvels of these unique 100-year-old time capsules," he said.