Archive for October, 2011


Mackinlay's Shackleton replica bottle

Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky is a replica of the whisky found under Earnest Shackleton’s hut in Antarctica, from an expedition in 1907. After some of the original whisky was very carefully thawed out, Master Blender Richard Paterson had the opportunity to try it, after which he created this replica whisky expression. It’s a limited edition of 50,000 bottles, and comes in really cool packaging. Bottled at 47.3% ABV, with no coloring or chill-filtering, it is now available in the U.S. for a pretty steep suggested retail of $200. Shopper’s Vineyard has it for $145, though.

I’ve been dying to get my hands on some of this whisky, but was not having much luck. First, I got an email out of the blue in April from the PR department at Whyte & Mackay saying that a sample was on its way, followed by an “oops” email that they couldn’t ship to the United States. Then I came across an opportunity to split in on a bottle and get 50ml for about $20 (including shipping from Netherlands). Well, I paid the money, but never saw a sample. I guess somebody working for the postal system got thirsty.

The sample I’m reviewing here came from the baddish group, who I believe handles PR for Whyte & Mackay products here in the U.S. Thank you Laura and Patty!

Tasting Notes

This is a blended malt (single malts only…not a traditional “blend”), with no age statement, but is said to contain malts ranging from 8 years to 30 years. The 30 year portion likely comes from Glen Mhor, which was one of the backbone distilleries for Mackinlay’s back in the day, but was shut down in 1983.

Mackinlay’s Shackleton replica whisky; 2011; 47.3% ABV; $150 – $200

Nose: Creme brulee sweetness (vanilla, caramel, and caramelized sugar), light peat smoke (like Highland Park, not Islay), something grassy and a little “wild”, polished wood and dusty books, and little bit of Dalmore chocolate orange.
Palate: The sweetness carries through, both caramel and chocolate. There is some nuttiness, and a hint of peat. It has an interesting way of being both easy going and untamed at the same time. Not sure how to describe the untamed part, except that it reminds me of Springbank 10 year.
Finish: Sweetness on the tongue, with earthy peat followed by tea and tobacco leaves lingering in the back of the nostrils. A great combination, except it dies off pretty quickly, just leaving some caramel flavor on the tongue.

Comments: The Shackleton replica vatting tastes to me like a high quality blend, composed of Dalmore 12, Highland Park St. Magnus, and a little Springbank 10, all laid down on a bed of good column still grain whisky to smooth things out and make it easy to drink. The Dalmore traits especially stand out, from the manner in which the sweet profile presents itself to the library and tea leaf notes. The smoke and grass combination is where HP St. Magnus comes in. Enjoyable from start to [a little disappointingly short] finish, this ranks as a high B whisky in my personal scoring system. 87 points.


I’m really glad I got a chance to try Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt. It’s a special whisky, for sure. While I mentioned a number of familiar components, the way they’re combined results in a unique and enjoyable profile. I hope Whyte & Mackay ends up making a standard release Mackinlay vatting or blend with as much of this flavor profile as they can squeeze in. I won’t be paying $150 for a bottle of this limited release expression (it’s going on my Christmas wish list, though), but I strongly recommend seeking it out in some manner. Whether that be via full bottle purchase, or through a local whisky club or bottle share.


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Ok, it’s been a LONG while since Master of Malt announced their Blogger’s Blend contest. But dammit, I bought the samples and took my notes, and wrote most of this article 2 months ago, so I’m going to do a blog post on it. 🙂

In short, the idea behind the Blogger’s Blend is to have 10 popular whisky bloggers concoct their own blend from a special blending kit provided by Master of Malt. MoM would then package up samples of all 10 blends and let the people decide which is the best value for the money. The winner would be bottled and released by MoM. Pretty cool! The sample set was priced at around $48, taking conversion rate into account. Add shipping and you’re in the $70 neighborhood. Pretty steep, and I almost didn’t do it, but I wanted to support my fellow bloggers.

I thought about posting my notes on all of the blends, but most people are never going to have access to them all, and besides, there are already good accounts of the whole set available. Check out Whisky Notes for one of the best round-ups. I’m going to provide notes for Blend “I”, which is the one I picked as my favorite. The samples came with an information sheet, which listed the amount that each blend would cost if it wins. The prices range from £36 to £68, with Blend I priced at £55.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A little bit of lemon and coal smoke combination like Caol Ila. A little bit of tar like Laphroaig. Very relaxed, though, tamed perhaps by the grain and other malts in the blend.
Palate: Peaty, a little sweet, but most notable for what’s not there…I just don’t taste anything that reminds me of cheap grain whisky at all in this one.
Finish: Longer than many of the other Blogger Blends, but medium in the grand scheme. Smoke in the back of the nostrils that once again reminds me of Caol Ila. It’s peaty, yet delicate at the same time.

Comments: I swore going into this that I wouldn’t get sucked in by my islay-leaning preferences, but dang it…I love this whisky! Of all of the malts and blends I’ve tried over the past 3+ years, this might be the one that I would most like to use as an introduction to Islay peat smoke for smoky whisky newbies. It reminds me of Johnnie Walker Blue with its ability to present smoke on the nose and in the finish, while also going down smoothly and not overwhelming at any stage in the drinking process. Well done! A solid B rating in my book.


Since trying the set of blends and voting for Blend I as my favorite, I’ve learned that “I” was indeed the first place vote getter, and apparently by a wide margin. Well, at least if I was duped by the prominent use of Islay whisky, I wasn’t the only one. I really do think this offers an experience similar to what you get from JW Blue (but with a narrower flavor profile). I don’t think the Blogger’s Blend is as complex as the $200 Blue Label, but for the area where the two intersect, I think “Blogger’s Blend I” accomplishes the same feat of making a smoky whisky easy and enjoyable to drink (though Blend I leans more towards an Islay smoky profile than JW Blue). It has an easy going finish that will leave the occasional whisky drinker marveling at how “smooth” it is.

Unfortunately, another way it’s similar to JW Blue is that, as a whisky enthusiast, I’m having a hard time justifying the purchase of a bottle relative to the many brilliant single malts available at the same or lower price point. Actually, if I lived in the UK and could avoid the shipping cost, I would probably buy a bottle.

So, why did I choose one of the most expensive whiskies as the “winner”, when we’re supposed to be taking value into account? My justification is that even the least expensive blend is expensive by blend pricing standards. For comparison, many people think Johnnie Walker Gold is a good value at $70 relative to some super expensive whiskies, even though it’s 3.5 times more expensive than JW Black. That’s where I’m at with these blends. Blend I is to JW Gold as several of the other blends are to JW Black. It’s just that they’re all more expensive than I would like.

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