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Expedition Whisky

If there’s one thing we love here at 12BB, it’s a good story about booze.  As we’ve recently been a bit remiss in our singling out of exceptional sport and sporting folk in this, our self-proclaimed Year of the Sportsman, we felt it high time that we regale you with a story of the sea, the ice, and the brave men who pushed the boundaries of human endeavor.  Today, we’ll be heading south – all the way south — but lest you think we’re returning to the hell fires of our Halloween haunt, no, we have a more frigid destination in mind – the icy wasteland that is Antarctica.

Of the three most famous men who led expeditions to the South Pole in the early part of the 20th century – Amundsen was the first to reach it, while Scott arrived just a month later and ultimately died there – Ernest Shackleton holds a particular distinction for having missed the Pole altogether, yet achieved an incredible and historic rescue of his men.  Although he is most remembered for his ill-fated Endurance expedition – the one in which, the Pole having already been obtained, he attempted the first Trans-Antarctic crossing – Shackleton made four attempts at the southern-most continent.  The first was as a member of Scott’s Discovery team (1901-1904), which set a new Farthest South record.  Shackleton subsequently beat that record with his own Nimrod expedition (1907-1909), which coincidentally was the last major expedition not to reach the Pole – a feat Amundsen would accomplish in late 1911, besting Scott’s team by just over a month.

As mentioned, it was Shackleton’s failed Endurance Trans-Antarctic attempt (1914-1917) which secured his most significant spot in the history books.  The Endurance is most notable not only because of the complete disaster which struck it once it reached the continent but also because of Shackleton’s daring and selfless rescue of his men.  If there was one thing to be said about the man it’s that he was a great people person.  Eschewing standard naval protocol – he was an opportunist, not a Navy man – Shackleton was as concerned with the personalities of his team members as he was with their technical skills.  Bigger than life, a self-promoter, a lover of women, and a definite man’s man, Shackleton was certainly a bloke with whom to have a drink, if ever there was one.  Fortunately, now you can – well, not literally, as he died in 1922, while en route yet again to the Pole.


Tonight on the National Geographic Channel (8pm ET/PT), the amazing story of the discovery of Shackleton’s long-lost Antarctic whisky stash will be told.  When the good folks at the National Geographic Channel asked if we’d be willing to the promote the show, we said, “Heck, yeah!” as this is exactly the kind of stuff we love.  Expedition Whisky covers not only the discovery of the cases of “Rare old Highland malt whisky, blended and bottled by Chas. Mackinlay & Co.” left behind by Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition more than a century ago but also the attempt of Richard Paterson, master blender and one of the world’s leading whisky authorities, and team to recreate the blend.

Here are a couple of previews:

Whisky Find of the Century


Shackleton’s Whisky Recipe


Whether you’re a Scotch aficionado, an exploration buff, or you just love a good tale of scientific detective work, Expedition Whisky offers a rare glimpse into both the whisky making practices of the past and the palate of one of the 20th century’s most daring figures.  For us, not only will the process of reverse engineering a 100+ year old bottle be fascinating – Will the whisky still be good? – but so will the answer to the question What kind of Scotch does one bring to Antarctic?

In short, be sure to join us and tune in to the National Geographic Channel tonight (8pm ET/PT) for Expedition Whisky.  Should you be so inclined, the end result of the whisky recreation can be purchased from various retailers, and it gets some pretty wonderful – and surprising – reviews.