Drilling for Scotch whiskey on frozen continent
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - November 16, 2009 -- A beverage company has asked a team to drill through Antarctica's ice for a lost cache of some vintage Scotch whiskey that has been on the rocks since a century ago.
The drillers will be trying to reach two crates of McKinlay and Co. whiskey that were shipped to the Antarctic by British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton as part of his abandoned 1909 expedition.
Whyte & Mackay, the drinks group that now owns McKinlay and Co., has asked for a sample of the 100-year-old scotch for a series of tests that could decide whether to relaunch the now-defunct Scotch.
Workers from New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust will use special drills to reach the crates, frozen in Antarctic ice under the Nimrod Expedition hut near Cape Royds.
Al Fastier, who will lead the expedition in January, said restoration workers found the crates of whiskey under the hut's floorboards in 2006. At the time, the crates and bottles were too deeply embedded in ice to be dislodged.
The New Zealanders have agreed to try to retrieve some bottles, although the rest must stay under conservation guidelines agreed by 12 Antarctic Treaty nations.
Fastier said he did not want to sample the contents.
"It's better to imagine it than to taste it," he said. "That way it keeps its mystery."
Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay's master blender, said the Shackleton expedition's whiskey could still be drinkable and taste exactly as it did 100 years ago.
If he can get a sample, he intends to replicate the old Scotch and put McKinlay whiskey back on sale.
"I really hope we can get some back here," he was quoted as telling London's Telegraph newspaper. "It's been laying there lonely and neglected. It should come back to Scotland where it was born.
"Even if most of the bottles have to remain in Antarctica for historic reasons, it would be good if we could get a couple," Paterson said.
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