Advertisement
Food by VICE

900 Bottles of Booze Finally Recovered from 1917 Shipwreck

The Kyros and its high-dollar cargo—including 600 bottles of Cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine liqueur—was discovered in 1999.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Nov 19 2019, 12:00pm

If you're a century-old Russian aristocrat or the restless ghost of Tsar Nicolas II, then this is probably some long-overdue good news: Your booze is finally here! Last month, a team of divers, salvage experts, and straight-up treasure hunters spent a week trying to finally, finally, collect 900 bottles of liquor that have spent more than 100 years stuck in a Swedish shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

This all started in December 1916, when the SS Kyros was supposed to start its journey from France to St. Petersburg, Russia (or Petrograd, as it was known at the time). It was soon determined that the ice in the Bothnian Sea between Finland and Sweden was too thick for the ship to sail through, so the delivery was postponed until May 1917. Shortly after the Kyros started toward Russia, it was stopped by a German U-Boat known as UC58. The crew ordered everyone off the Kyros, and after the Germans inspected the ship, they decided "Yeah, it's probably best if we sink this."

So the Kyros and its high-dollar cargo that included 600 bottles of De Haartman & Co. Cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine liqueur, swayed helplessly 250 feet underwater until it was finally discovered in 1999. But then the ship was somehow lost again for 14 years (!!!) before being re-discovered in 2014.

"Kyros is probably one of the most, if not the most, extreme wrecks in the world to salvage," Peter Lindberg, of the Ocean X underwater salvage team, told Wine Spectator. "It has been a very complicated and dangerous operation due to the bad visibility and the depth of [252 feet]." (On top of that, Ocean X said that the Kyros had been "heavily damaged" by fishing nets, and had to be repeatedly cleaned of fishing debris, just to make it accessible to both divers and unmanned underwater vehicles.)

But last month, everything finally came together, and thanks to some teamwork between Ocean X and their Icelandic counterparts, Ixplorer, they finally managed to pull 50 boxes of De Haartman & Co. Cognac and Benedictine liqueur off the long-sunken ship and up to the surface. (De Haartman & Co. no longer exists, and Benedictine is now owned by Bacardi).

"The Cognac is of a very unknown brand and we don't know now how that will affect the value," Lindberg told CNN. "We certainly don't want to open a bottle if the value is tens of thousands of dollars. We are trying to find info but it's not easy."

Lindberg said that his team has been in touch with Bacardi to find out exactly how much those circa-1916 bottles might be worth. He also said that the bottles will eventually be sold, but not yet. (And let's be honest, it doesn't matter when they go on sale, because most of us were priced out several paragraphs ago).

No one knows which wealthy Russians that booze was being shipped to, but there's always the possibility that it was supposed to end up in Nicolas II's undoubtedly well-appointed liquor cabinet. "The importance of this event cannot be overemphasized," Ocean X said in a statement. "It’s not only a find of rare Cognac and liqueur but also a part of [the] history of the former imperial Russia."

All 900 bottles were taken to Sweden at the end of October. Do your thing, rich Russian ghosts.

Tagged:
Booze
russia
FRANCE