Single malt whisky - tasting notes

20 Sep 2011

Mackinlay’s Shackleton whisky

Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in * Blends

By now you all know the story: explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew took a few cases of Mackinlay’s whisky to the Antartic in the 1900’s. The bottles have recently been recovered from the ice and were then analysed in the Invergordon lab. The whisky turned out to be stable and has been recreated by Richard Paterson, the Master Blender of White & MacKay who now own Mackinlay’s. Even the bottle and the packaging are closely related to the originals. A great story! The N.Y. Times published a good article in case you’re interested in finding out more.

As a vatted malt, the Shackleton Replica contains malt whisky from several distilleries in Speyside, the Highlands and the Islands. The oldest is Glen Mhor distilled in 1983, their final year of distillation.


Mackinlay's Shackleton replicaMackinlay’s Rare Old Highland malt whisky ‘Shackleton’s Replica’ (47,3%, White & MacKay 2011, 50.000 btl.)

Nose: nice example of a rather light and slightly dusty Highlands profile, albeit in a modern disguise. Some grassy notes with grains, vanilla and walnuts. Slightly shy fruits (apple and pear). Some buttery notes and leather. Hints of spices, mainly ginger and nutmeg. Earthy / leafy notes in the background. Echoes of the old-style. Mouth: delicate balance of sweetness (oranges, honey, caramel) and a bitter grassiness, accompanied by mineral notes. Dry and sweet at the same time really. Again some earthy notes with an elegant hint of smoke. Zesty citrus. Ginger. Finish: medium long and dry, growing more smoky and gingery with a caramel sweetness in the background.


It’s getting difficult to find traces of this Highlands profile (old-style à la Coleburn, Glen Mhor, Millburn, Teaninich) and the end result is quite enjoyable. Of course you’re paying a premium for the packaging and marketing, but at least it’s good whisky. Around € 125.

Score: 85/100

Mackinlay’s Shackleton whisky 3.5 Ruben Luyten 2011-09-20
  • Gal Granov

    Good whisky it is, a bit overpriced methinks.

  • Ruben

    It’s in the same category as Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix, where the distillery / blender was planning up-front to create a “collector’s item”, indeed at a premium price. If it were bad whisky, then it would have been a failure no matter what the packaging looks like, but now my thumbs are up. Of course if you’re only looking for good spirit, then surely there are better investments.

  • Tim F

    I’m duty-bound to point out that Richard Paterson will be taking us through the process of the recreation of this whisky – and tasting some of the constituent parts – in his Shackleton Deconstructed tasting at The Whisky Show – sorry for the plug, Ruben 😉

  • Ruben

    No problem Tim, it will be an interesting opportunity.

  • two-bit cowboy

    Thanks for the review Ruben. After letting this sit in the glass for 20 minutes or so I picked up a musty scent. While that doesn’t sound appealing, it was. A friend of mine noted a pleasant musky scent and called it “Red deer in rut” (he’s a wildlife biologist).

    I don’t mind the price, and I think the packaging helps tell this great story.

  • WhiskyBrother

    So the bottle number is confirmed to 50K – once off? I hadn’t seen any specification on limited quantity, and as such am hesitant to buy. I’d hate to get a bottle or two at the current price, only to find W&M launching a second (cheaper) run because demand is so high.

    Where’d you find the 50K number Ruben?

  • Ruben

    Yes I believe it will be limited to 50k. I don’t think a sequel would fit the concept of being a true replica. Sources: (The Telegraph) and (TWE)

  • kallaskander

    Hi there,

    The bottles have since been returned to New Zealand to be restored to their resting place in the ice underneath Shackleton’s hut, while Whyte & Mackay have rushed out a tribute bottling of Mackinlay’s – in a strictly limited edition of 50,000 bottles.

    The Shackleton replica will cost £100, with 5% from every sale being donated back to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the New Zealand charity responsible for finding and uncovering the original whisky. If all 50,000 bottles sell out the Trust will receive £250,000.


  • Tim F

    Cheers for the links, gentlemen.

    As I wrote in the blog, I do hope that this is not a strict one-off and that once this first bottling is finished W&M will do the right thing and revive the brand properly.

    I feel sure that they’ll want to continue to benefit from the exposure Mackinlay’s has received in the last year or two and the brand goodwill generated as a result. My guess would be that after the first edition ‘Shackleton’ Mackinlay’s is finished, a cheaper ongoing Mackinlay’s will appear.

    However, if that does happen there’s no chance of it being the same juice as the current stuff, if only because by replacing the (extremely finite) Glen Mhor and making the packaging a bit less fancy they could drastically reduce the retail price and build a long term future for the brand.

  • Ruben

    They would still need to find a certain niche for the brand and the old-school Highlands style could certainly be suitable. But then they would need another distillery to replace Glen Mhor, as I feel this has contributed a lot to the style.

  • Tim F

    No doubt the Glen mhor has had an effect, Ruben, but it’s a very tough call to say what has and hasn’t influenced the style without knowing all the constituent elements and the proportions used. My guess is that the proportion of Glen Mhor is probably not very big, but that it would contribute towards the woody, tweedy notes. If that’s the case it could easily be replaced by another blend-fodder malt from tired casks, and there are plenty of those around 😉

  • Ruben

    You really think Paterson has blend-fodder malts from tired casks among his stocks? Shocking 😉

  • WhiskyBrother

    Great discussion. Glad someone else echoes my sentiment of a cheaper round two. Will be interesting to see if it happens. Does anyone know any online sources that still have stock?

  • Ruben

    A lot of shops in Belgium / Netherlands / Germany.



November 2015
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Coming up

  • Lindores 2015 festival bottling
  • Amrut 2009 (cask #2701)
  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Lagavulin Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1931 notes by Ruben

WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.