Longtime readers (and Dalmore fans) may recall the original Shackleton whiskies, a pair of releases which hit in 2011/2012, designed personally by Richard Paterson to mimic the whisky that Ernest Shackleton took with him on his famed trip to the South Pole. These whiskies are both quite enjoyable — and expensive. (You can still track them down, as well.)
In 2017, Whyte and Mackay decided to extend the Shackleton brand by taking it downmarket. The new Shackleton drops the replica bottle and straw padding treatment, lowers the proof to 40% abv, and — most importantly — changes the blend considerably. I’ll be blunt here: What was once a carefully composed and quite lush whisky has been stripped down to the point where it bears little resemblance to its forebears.
As part of this review, I tasted the original Shackleton and a 2019 bottling of “blue label” Shackleton Blended Malt side by side. Wow, what a difference.
The new Shackleton offers a fairly restrained and simple nose: Lots of raw cereal, some smoky beef brisket notes, and a moderately nutty element on top of it all. The palate doesn’t overly stray: Doughy and heavy on lightly smoked granary notes, the notes of sesame oil and some lemon don’t elevate the experience much. The overall experience on the palate is surprisingly blunt and raw, with a finish that is short and focused fully on the cereal influence.
Fairly lifeless on the whole, it’s drinkable in the way that a glass of Johnnie Walker Red Label is drinkable, but it lacks the refinement we’ve come to expect from both the Shackleton brand and Dalmore.