Explorer's dram returns to icy home

Three bottles of perhaps the most famous and most travelled Scotch whisky are a step closer to returning to their icy home.

The 100-year-old whisky, from the supplies of one of the heroic Antarctic expeditions of the early 20th century, were ceremoniously handed back on Saturday night at New Zealand's Scott Base.

Five crates of spirits were donated to Ernest Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition between 1907 and 1910, which narrowly failed to reach the South Pole.

The three cases of whisky and two of brandy, the bottles encased in ice, were discovered three years ago by conservators trying to preserve Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds, 100 years after he made his base there in 1908.

Three bottles were sent back to the distillers, Whyte and Mackay, in Scotland, where they were analysed and the whisky recreated.

A needle was used to pierce the cork to withdraw a small sample from the original bottles. The cork then sealed itself and the bottles were restored.

The artefacts program manager for the Antarctic Heritage Trust, Lizzie Meek, who couldn't attend the ceremony at Scott Base because she was snowed in at Cape Evans, joined the ceremony via radio.

She said the find had been amazing and it was extremely pleasing to see the bottles returned after a long journey.

It was enjoyable to work with an artefact that had such a pleasant aroma, compared with most other items in the hut, she said. The bottles were still in good condition.

Meek said there was no way the treasure would be sampled.

Was it the good stuff? "The information we had from Whyte and Mackay was that it was pretty good," Meek said.