December 2, 2011

MacKinlay Rare Old Highland Malt

 • The saga of Shackleton's whisky -- the discovery in early 2007 of a cache of spirits left behind by an early 20th Century expedition to the South Pole -- has all the elements of derring-do from an era when men and their potables were rustic, burly and beyond the scope of mortals.

Recreating a legend seldom fares well. Witness the flops we saw in trying to revive "Charlie's Angels" on TV this season. But, such dangers did not deter its makers from producing Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt.

The saga began during explorer Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic expedition of 1907-1909. He and his group barely escaped alive, and left behind 100 cases of Mackinlay’s. Fast forward to February 2007 and we have other explorers unearthing -- or de-icing -- the whisky stash. It was dispatched to Whyte & Mackay, the original brand owner. There, master blender Richard Paterson headed up a team that sought to recreate the original spirit.

What they wound up is a blend of whiskies, some as old as 30, that is somewhat shy yet spicy at first imporession. As it opens, we are treated to notes of melon, cinnamon, vanilla, leather and menthol that Paterson and company found in the original flavor.

Since it is based on the flavor profile of a historical oddity rather than on a major prize-winner,   I didn't know what to be prepared for but I was pleased with what I got. A lingering, slightly sweet finish makes a nice finish with a lot less bite than in the original impact.

Suggested retail price: $150-plus for the 750ml bottle.

Go to Dowd's Spirits Notebook.

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