Whisky Tales – Mackinlay’s Shackleton “Crannog” 3 year

Some whiskies you try and you are just dying to share what you discovered. Others, like this one, are less about the whisky and more about the story… living expedition adventures vicariously through film, letters, maps and more.

And what did our Whisky Ladies think?

Shackleton “The Journey” 47.3%

  • Nose – Sweet and sour, paradoxically of both land with grassy notes and sea with the brine of ocean spray. There was a sharpness too. Vanilla biscuits… then became increasingly sour
  • Palate – Spice, a touch harsh initially, bitter
  • Finish – Not much, but does it need to be with this whisky style?
  • Water – Much punchier… from no where peat comes out, has much more character and yes, indeed that is a finish too!

As a whisky, it was interesting but nothing that made us go wow!

As a story, we delved deep into the memorabilia, sparking lively discussions and attempts to read scribbles of yore.

We particularly had a giggle at the Indian connect – Vijay Mallya – from back in the day when he was a billionaire claiming the title of the “King of good times” before his rather spectacular fall and fugitive avatar. Along with Whyte & Mackay, he acquired the surviving 3 bottles, flew them back in his private jet and set in motion the reconstruction which led to the whisky we enjoyed.

You can read more in an earlier tasting of this whisky here: Going on an expedition! Shackleton’s The Journey.

More whiskies with stories to tell:

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Going on an expedition! Shackleton’s Journey 47.3%

The whiskies of yore are extremely rare, however whisky recreations (particularly when backed with a good story) are making a come-back!

Shackleton was inspired by 3 crates of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt discovered in Antartica in 2007 from an 1907 expedition with Ernest Shackleton, brought to fortify his ‘Nimrod’ expedition. Richard Paterson, Master Blender of White & Mackay (owners of the Mackinlay brand), re-created this whisky based on analysis of the previous preserved bottles from the originals.

There are now three editions – ‘Discover’ and  ‘Journey’ both at 47.3% and a newer 40% version for mass market. The initial editions used Orkney peat in the malting, matured in American white oak sherry casks with a blend of malts from Glen Mhor and Dalmore distilleries with others from Speyside and beyond.

Our original group sampled the Journey version completely blind before the reveal.

Shackleton 47.3% – Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, The Journey edition

  • Colour – A bright yellow gold straw
  • Nose – Fruity, organic, citrus, a sense that it might be a bit oily, banana, as the pronounced alcohol started to settle down revealed a more earthy side, dairy curds, dry hay, has quite a farm-like quality, a bit of khatta meetha (sour & sweet), tamarind, kept changing and evolving, shifted to cut grass, vegetal, copper, hint of smoke, autumn leaves, garden flowers, light spice, sesame oil, tropical fruits, light honey, even marmalade
  • Palate – Sweet yet with a bitter green element too – like meethi or cereal, a little spice and sweet, while came across as young it was without being harsh or raw, fresh tumeric, dry, even a bit of sulfur?
  • Finish – A long, bitter finish with more of that tumeric

This whisky had quite a volatile character. After the first sip, the nose was dramatically dampened down, the diversity gone, and the aromas and palate aligned. Some found it bitter quality pleasant, others a bit too much. While not complex on the palate… it began with character then became flat with the nose slipping into wet mud.

Then we added water... what a difference that made! The bitterness left, replaced by a much sweeter, balanced dram, a gentle smoke weaved its way around. Often water initially brings out spice – in this case not at all – instead it just brought all the elements together.

As our discussions continued, it aired further as we debated whether this was Scottish at all… could it be European? A blend? The aromas shifted to a medicine cabinet, iodine and adhesive bandaids chased by b-complex pills.

While we concluded it may not be a “repeat” drink, it certainly sparked a lot of conversation and was good way to start our evening.

With the reveal, we were distracted by all the paraphernalia that came with the whisky… The packaging was cleverly designed to bring history to the consumer of the reconstruction – a straw covered bottle, a slim envelop bursting with photographs, copies of old letters, a negative strip, map, booklet outlining the tale…

The Journey edition is described to be the “elegant and refined” avatar:

With the launch of the Shackleton Epic Expedition, and continued correspondence with Shackleton’s grand-daughter Alexandra and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, Richard Paterson was inspired to create a second edition of the Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt – The JOURNEY.

The Epic Expedition will attempt to replicate Shackleton’s “Double”: his journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia, a distance of 800 miles over sea and ice. This will be done with the same kinds of equipment used in the 1916 expedition, including the Alexandra Shackleton, a replica of the 23ft open lifeboat used on the original voyage.

The Journey Edition of Mackinlay’s takes the same base of single malts used to create the original Discovery Edition and, still inspired by the original recipe, builds on them to create a noticeably different dram – a more elegant and refined interpretation.

What all did we try in our explorer’s evening of “It’s all about the packaging”?

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Explorers – Shackleton, Tobermory, Highland Park Thor

One of the reasons we love tasting blind is we can explore a whisky without being influenced by previous experience with the distillery or marketing paraphernalia. For our February 2018 session, this came in handy… as the theme of the evening ending up being the whisky packaging!

What all did we try?

Did I mention the marketing? Just wait to see the booklets, photos, special boxes and more!

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