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Treasure hunters find 900 bottles of cognac, liqueur on shipwreck from First World War


Underwater treasure hunters exploring the remains of a sunken Swedish steamer in the Baltic Sea have discovered a motherload of cognac and liqueur bottles stowed on the ship — but are unsure if they’re still drinkable.

Divers and unmanned vehicles from Ocean X team — who were the first to discover the steamer ‘Kyros’ in 1999 — and iXplorer have salvaged more than 600 bottles of De Haartman & Co. cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine liqueur.

The bottles were supposed to be delivered from France to St. Petersburg, Russia via Sweden in December 1916, the team posted on their Its trip came to a quick halt when it was stopped by German submarine ‘UC58’. The submarine sank the steamer as the Germans considered parts of the cargo as contraband. The Kyros crew however, were transferred to a nearby ship and were safely returned to Sweden.

The Benedictine company — now owned by Bacardi — was just 50 years old when the bottles disappeared with the shipwreck. After 100 years of lying underwater, the team has yet to determine whether the alcohol is still suitable to drink.

“We don’t know yet if its drinkable. We get a fraction of smell from the Benedictine bottles and it smells sweet and from herbs,” Peter Lindberg, a spokesperson for Ocean X, told CNN. “We can’t get any sense of smell from the cognac bottles, but that might just be in order since it should not smell through a cork.”

Previous discoveries suggest that it may not be too late to enjoy a taste of the vintage alcohol. In 2014, archaeologists discovered a 200-year-old “gin-like spirit” stored in a stoneware bottle, in a shipwreck in the Gdańsk Bay. While it did not “smell particularly good”, an analysis found that the alcohol was still suitable to drink.

The team is unsure whether the bottles belong to Czar Nicholas II, the then-presiding ruler of Russia.

“We can’t tell for sure that these bottles were for the Czar himself, but for the nobility around him for sure,” Lindberg told CNN.

Since it was first sunk, the wreck has been heavily damaged by years of fishing trawls and trawl boards. After it was first discovered, the team had to clear the wreck of nets to allow divers to access it.

Lindberg added that the team is currently in talks with Bacardi — who now own Benedictine — to determine the value of the haul and plan to sell the bottles once their research is completed.

Financial gain aside, the highlight of the discovery lies in its historical value. “It’s not only a find of rare cognac and liqueur but also a part of history of the former imperial Russia,” the team wrote on their website.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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