World’s Most Southerly Whisky Tasting?

It had always been my intenton to have a whisky tasting on our March 2008 expedition to Antarctica, and use the event for maximum sponsorship leverage for our charity, Transplants in Mind.

The World Record for the southernmost whisky tasting would be a sure-fire winner. Ardbeg – my chosen distillery – would be falling over themsevles for the outrageous publicity we’d create; sponsorship cash would roll in, and when we got back, there would be a tour of whisky tasting and motivational speaking for Cim and me.  What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday March 18 2008, Research Vessel “Professor Multanovsky”, Argentine Islands, Antarctica

Plans to have the ‘Whisky on Ice – Antarctica’ tasting while we were actually camping on  Antarctica were scuppered yesterday: strictly no food or drink on Antarctica itself. Anyway, there was an alcohol ban on all campers; not a good idea to make yourself vulnerable to hypothermia when you are so isolated. I put word out that the tasting would be tonight, after dinner, on board the ship, on the top deck.

Worlds Southernmost Whisky Tasting: 65 deg 14 S

World's Southernmost Whisky Tasting: 65 deg 14' S

I had with me three whiskies: three miniature bottles carried in my luggage from Engand. Three single malts to taste, all from the same distillery, Ardbeg – as we whisky nerds call it: a vertical tasting:
Ardbeg Uigeadail (oogy dahl)
Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist 17 year-old (arry nam bayst)
Ardbeg ‘Almost There” 9 year-old

Big, hairy peat monsters, all (the malts, not the drinkers), cask strength, 50% alcohol and more. This was a baptism of smoke for my new whisky tasters, but I think just right for the bottom of the world.

Returning from the afternoon excursion to Vernadsky research base and the delights of Antarctic-distilled vodka and a bar draped with ladies underwear,  we ate dinner early again. This allowed tonights campers – who were foregoing world record glory for a night merely in tents on Antarctica – to speed off in the Zodiacs and make camp while it was still light.

Up top, it was cloudy, but clear enough for the sun to set the clouds alight as it headed down over the Antarctic peninsula. The temperature was rapidly heading down too. Wind chill was a factor.

We borrowed glasses from the bar, and a supply of Andean minearl water. The miniatures gave us just enough whisky to share around (Cim, Taff, Tim, Marcus, Kieron, Luke, and me, later joined by Louise, Victoria who stuck to champagne, and AJ).

Photos were taken with me wearing potential sponsor’s t-shirt. Cim had the videocam rolling, and with whiskies poured, a quick introduction from me – and on with the first whisky…

I think I pitched the tasting about right, it being the first whisky tasting for almost all. How to nose first without water, what to look for in the flavours and aromas, why it goes cloudy. People seemed to like it.

The smoky power of the whiskies worked its magic and won over even the Jack and Coke contingent. AJ had the last drop of the Airigh Nam Beist and exclaimed, “That’ll put hairs on yer chest.” At this ambient temperature, even I was wishing for a few more on my already well-forested breast. “Jim Beam’s got nuthin’ on this”, says AJ. That’s a Result in my book.

But even the mighty Ardbeg is no match for the Antarctic night, so we retired to the bar, and some Glenlivet and Chivas 12.  There was just one more sponsorship task to perform: check if the video of Cim’s ice dance we recorded while at Vernadsky had worked. It had.

It was a big relief. For Cim it was the culmination of her trip, something to prove there is life after transplant: the thunder in her heart.

What we didn;t think was to run the tape forward past the whisky tasting footage (byte-age). Next day, we carried on filming from the end of the ice dance, not realising the shots we were taking were recording over the World’s Most Southerly Whisky Tasting.


Now a year on. Isn’t it funny how a little button labelled ‘rewind’ can throw your carefully wrought plans into the Southern Ocean? I only realised what we’d done, when we were back in England.  The only way I could cope with the disappointment was to forget about publicising the event. I would have to come up with another idea.

And so was born: “The World’s Most Latitudinally-Separated  Annual Whisky Tastings”. Ideally, there would have been a follow-up expedition to the Arctic, with perhaps the World’s northernmost whisky tasting. The Arctic thing didn’t happen and I found myself in Lund in the south of Sweden.

Vernadsky Base’s latitude is 65 degrees South, Lund’s is 55 degrees North. That’s 120 degrees of separation. Beat that!


3 Responses

  1. Awesome! I want to do the most northerly one now:D

  2. […] Tactical Nuclear Penguin: The World’s Strongest Beer and The Ultimate Antarctic Beverage? Posted on November 27, 2009 by Jerry Bartlett We interrupt our usual broadcasts to bring you news of something that actually involves Antarctica. Well, penguins anyway. Oh alright, two Scots dressed as penguins. But hey! It’s a world record claim involving a malt-based beverage, and as long-term Antarctic Odyssey readers will know, I claim the record for the world’s southernmost whisky tasting. […]

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