Home Food Raising a glass with a Scotch whisky – at the South Pole

Raising a glass with a Scotch whisky – at the South Pole


Whisky lovers around the world no doubt brought in the New Year with a tipple of Scotland’s national drink.

But you can be sure no one enjoyed a more remote dram than Antarctic explorer Barney Swan – who is currently en route to the South Pole.

On Hogmanay he and his team of three toasted 2018 with what is thought to be the most southerly dram in the world – ever.

At midnight Antarctic time (four hours after UK time) they were less than 140 nautical miles from the South Pole – they have now been trekking for 41 days.

Robert Swan with the Ardgowan Expedition whisky

Barney and teammates Kyle O’Donoghue and Martin Barnett are currently on a quest – named the South Pole Energy Challenge – which will be the world’s first polar trip to use zero carbon all the way.

Over this expedition, they aim to highlight the challenge of climate change and will demonstrate and showcase cutting edge technologies robust enough to work in one of the harshest environments on earth.

The challenge is the brainchild of Barney’s father and polar pioneer Robert Swan, who joined them on the early part of the journey.

The trio are relying on hi-tech kit from the likes of Shell and Toyota on their low carbon mission.

And amongst all the advanced equipment, they also took two small flasks of aged malt whisky provided by the Ardgowan Distillery – a new single malt distillery which provided them with passive snow melters for their trip.

As far as the team is aware, no Scotch whisky has ever travelled so far south.

Barney Swan’s Hogmanay dram near the South Pole

Barney, speaking via satellite phone from his remote tent, said: ‘There’s plenty of evidence of explorers drinking whisky in Antarctica.

‘But there’s no record of anyone ever having taken any to the South Pole.

‘Whisky was certainly drunk at the field base in early expeditions, but once they got on their way, it was definitely surplus to requirements.’

In 2011, a number of cases of scotch whisky from Shackleton’s 1907-1909 expedition were unearthed beneath an expedition hut, before being returned to Scotland.

Whilst early records speak of a (literally) poisonous concoction called ‘Tanglefoot’ made by ‘boiling raisins in primus methylated spirit’ which, not surprisingly, tasted awful.

Fortunately, the whisky Barney and his team enjoyed was far more flavoursome, and they described their aged malt as ‘fantastic’.
And now it will become the first Scotch whisky to make it to the South Pole and back.

Although the team enjoyed one of the small flasks, they decided to take the other one all the way to their destination.

They then plan to return it to Scotland where the Ardgowan Distillery will make it part of a limited-edition bottling of Ardgowan Expedition aged malt.

Distillery CEO Martin McAdam says a proportion of sales will go to support Barney Swan’s ongoing environmental work.

So connoisseurs will soon be able to sample the only whisky ever to have been to the most southerly point of the globe – which is something we can all raise a glass to.

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