Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky

Ok, I usually review whiskies that are in my own price range. That’s under $100, although I consider anything over $50 to be a bit of a stretch. Once in awhile, though, I get an opportunity to taste something wholly out of my budget – and who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? Thanks to Patricia at The Baddish Group for sending me a sample of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky.

If you do any reading online or in magazines about whisky, it would have been hard to avoid all of the media coverage of the recovery of three sealed bottles of whisky from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s base camp in Antarctica earlier this year. Several crates of these bottles, along with other artifacts from the failed 1907 ‘Nimrod’ expedition, have lain perfectly preserved in sub-zero temperatures for a century. When Whyte & Mackay, owners of the now-defunct Mackinlay & Co. brand which adorns the bottles, got the chance to examine the contents (under carefully-controlled conditions: the bottles themselves are headed back to the site), they did what any sensible corporation would do: make a replica and sell it for $200!

Seriously though, luminary master blender Richard Paterson brought his blending talents to bear on a re-creation of the style from the late 1800s: analysis showed the preserved bottles to be 5 to 10 year-old single malt, likely from the Glen Mhor distillery, using barley smoked with a little bit of Orkney peat, and aged in ex-sherry barrels. The re-creation contains some Glen Mhor (a closed distillery), some Dalmore, and an undisclosed mixture of other malts. Retailing at around $175, this is not whisky for the faint of wallet, although you could console yourself with the knowledge that 5% of the proceeds are donated to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, which oversees the maintenance and protection of heritage sites like Shackleton’s camp.

Note: There is a much cheaper, newer reproduction of Mackinlay’s whisky on the market. See a review here.

Nose: Very Highland in style – fruity, honeyed and light. Faint hint of peat – like rosemary smoke – with some unctuous peach and raw honey. Also something vibrant and young: clementine oranges and fresh crushed mint. A little rubber. More nose tickle than I’d expect, even after a long rest in the glass. This one really crawls up your nose.

Palate: Quite full body. Creamy. Orange blossoms up front with honeycomb and raspberry coulis. Next it gets malty, showing gingerbread and shortbread cookies. Finally it gets slightly nutty.

Finish: Long and satisfying. Residual honey, a little drying tannin, some maple syrup and hard candies. Wraps up with peanut butter. Excellent finish which really keeps the flavors coming, rather than fading off.

Overall: If I were weathering a snowstorm at the South Pole, I’d sure like to have several cases of this stashed under my cabin. Or better yet, under my bed! Eminently Highlander, with loads of honey and sticky-sweet candied fruits, a touch of smoke, a hint of rubber, and lots of flavor. I’m too poor to buy $200 bottles of anything, but if the story captures your attention, and the thought of cracking open a $200 bottle of spirits doesn’t make you break out in a cold sweat, you won’t be disappointed. I’m guessing a large number of sales will be primarily to collectors, as there are a limited number of bottles (50,000) available.

A few drops of water reveal a little roasted peanut on the nose, make the palate a lot more malty with brown sugar and cereals, and don’t seem to alter the finish. Try a few drops if you’re curious, but I think it drinks just fine without.

Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky
47.3% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $175-$200
Acquired: (Sample) Courtesy of The Baddish Group. Thanks, Patricia!

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  • I got to try this at a tasting hosted by Richard Paterson. I like it, it’s not exactly my kind of whisky though. I’m tempted by it because of the history and the fact that it’s a collectable item but, I can’t really afford to drop that kind of money on a bottle.

  • @Mantisking

    I’ve heard plenty of stories about people buying whisky for “collect-ability” and regretting it later, due to reasons of storage, difficulty of resale, and sporadic appreciation. I feel that unless someone intends to go all-out and is passionate enough about collecting to make it a second profession, it’s not worth doing piecemeal. I personally only buy expensive bottles with the intention of drinking them later, either at special occasions or as protection against a favorite bottling becoming scarce.

  • I’ve taken different approach to this one. I bought it not for the collectible value, but to have on a special occasion with special friends. I think too many people will buy it as a collectible (50,000 bottles is a LOT), they will put them away for safekeeping so almost all of the available stock will be available for many years to come keeping prices low. I’m just going to drink it!

  • I bought three bottles today. That gives me two to share with friends and one to keep and it has good company. Looking forward to the next special occasion to open one up.

  • I just bought 4 bottles from Merwin Liquors on line. They are in MN, however ship via UPS. I’m sure there limitations for each state, but there was no problem getting it to Vegas. Price was pretty amazing. I have 1 to drink, 1 to gift, and 2 for collection.

  • When we moved into our new house, we decided to have a pub in a room that would normally be considered a “living room”.
    Cast iron base pub tables, chairs from Yorkshire, and even a print of the Prince of Wales on the wall. And then we found a large (6′ x 3′) MacKinlay advertising mirror.

    So our bottle of MacKinlay’s whiskey will sit on a sideboard to help complete the “pub” feeling.

  • I have just one bottle in its original wood casket and packaging, complete with extra cork and a colourful booklet relating the history. I suffer froma medical condiction and cannot drink any alcohol at all. As a former free ranging wine scribe and home chef, my days without wines, brandies and the finest whiskies are drab and dreary.

    This would be ideally sold on to a collector but anyone is welcome to make a decent offer and I will ship it at a little extra fee anywhere in the world, provided it is within reach of Rennies or DHL.

    Contact me via email on at gmail dot com

    I am not a liquor seller and this will ONLY be sold as a collectable item. It is on offer to collectors and people who would love to have it for more than what is inside the bottle. It is a rare find and part of history, after all.

    • Hi Hugenoot, I hope you find a buyer for your Mackinlay’s, and I’m sorry to hear about your condition! You might also try listing this offer on the whiskywhiskywhisky forum, you might get more bites there.