Outside, the temperature was 34°C. Inside, the event organizer told us it was below zero degree. Clad in winter clothing, we headed to Marriott Hotel Manila’s cold-kitchen-turned-into-an-ice-bar for an extraordinary Antarctica-feel experience. The room thermometer showed -14.1°C temperature.
The story behind the adventure
It’s all about a whisky that was discovered under ice in Antarctica over 100 years ago, the Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky.
In 1907, the legendary British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton attempted to conquer a record-breaking expedition and become the first man to reach the furthest south in Antarctica.
Together with his crew, they sailed across the sea to brave extreme weather, unknown terrain and life-threatening events.
Just 97 miles short from their destination, Sir Ernest’s ship was lost to the unforgiving ice of Antarctica. He made a bold decision to abandon his quest and instead led each one of his crew home to safety. It was one of the greatest stories of leadership and survival ever told. In the race for survival, they left the supplies behind at their base camp in Cape Royds, including three crates of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky.
One hundred years later, the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered the crates engulfed in ice. They flew the perfectly preserved whiskies to New Zealand where they carefully thawed them at Canterbury Museum. These whiskies gave birth to the modern taste of Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky.
“They were able to restore it and gave it back to Whyte and Mackay where they labored intensely to recreate the spirit of the product,” said George Schulze, brand spokesman of Whyte and Mackay-Asia. “Sir Ernest was so much in love with this whisky that he considered it a must-drink during his challenging exploration. Fortunately, a few bottles were left hidden under ice for a century and were later discovered for the world to enjoy.”
Inspired by the boldness and the feat of Sir Ernest, Whyte & Mackay now launches the Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky in the Philippines. The scotch captures the blend of the original whisky personally ordered by Sir Ernest for his legendary expedition in 1907.
“Shackleton is bottled today, but it is based on the whisky that our distillery produced 100 years ago. Sir Ernest’s group brought 25 cases with them to start their exploration, and this whisky kept them warm and strong as they faced the difficult task of reaching furthest south in Antarctica,” Schulze related.
The tasting of the legendary whisky
At the launch held at the Marriott Grand Ballroom, the organizers treated us, media guests to a simulated Antarctica where the hotel’s cold kitchen was transformed into an ice bar with below zero-degree temperature.
Schulze gave us some tips on how to better experience Shackleton.
“We bring the glass of whisky to our nose, take it from left to right, and smell it to prepare our palate for what we are about to taste. The notes we will be experiencing are the sweeter ones — vanilla, toffee apple, cinnamon, and ginger,” Schulze described. “Now that our palate is ready, we’re going for our first taste. Take the full liquid in your mouth then swirl for around 10 seconds. We want that flavor to go everywhere. We want the palate to fully experience it all around your mouth. After swirling, swallow it.”
Schulze explained that swirling makes swallowing lighter because the entire mouth is experiencing the flavor.
“Shackleton is the first blended malt brand to join Whyte & Mackay’s portfolio as a permanent offering. The result is a rich and robust whisky, which offers notes of vanilla, honey, ginger, and licorice, with a whisper of bonfire smoke,” said Schulze.
We also experienced branded ice with a compass logo. Schulze shared that polar explorers believed the compass symbol brings them good fortune. Using a perfectly cut block of ice, Chris Balane, sous chef of Marriott Hotel, took the branding material and pressed it on the ice for five seconds, then a perfect mark of a compass — a Shackleton logo — appeared.
Schulze wanted us to taste the whisky just the way the explorers did 100 years ago — under ice and over ice. Thanks to chef Balane and his team who worked on the ice bar intensely for about two weeks and carved 60 standard ice blocks each weighing 200 pounds.
“When I learned about the story behind the brand, it inspired me to create this ice bar in memory of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s adventure that gave birth to this whisky,” said Balane.
“Sir Ernest brought so many cases of this whisky with him so it must be good. This whisky became even amazingly better after it was left under ice for 100 years. Our master blender was surprised about the wonder of the whisky after being kept under ice for more than a century. And since Shackleton was discovered under ice, it is a must to serve and enjoy it over ice too,” Schulze said.