Intended for the last Russian Tsar, the precious cargo was scuttled by a German U-boat at the height of World War I, having spent over 100 years under water until a team of divers extracted it from the Baltic Sea floor.
The intriguing story began in May 1917 when a Swedish steamer S/S Kyros set sail for Petrograd – now St. Petersburg – having 50 cases of French cognac and 15 cases of liqueur on board. The recipient of the shipment was Emperor Nicolas II, who dramatically abdicated from the throne just two months prior.
Russia was still formally at war with the German Empire, so the cargo was sent from France on a ship belonging to neutral Sweden. But the Kyros never reached her destination; as the steamer sailed past the Aland Island in the Baltic waters, she was intercepted by a German submarine UC-58.
Under the laws of war in those days, the Germans accused the crew of smuggling illegal products, allowed the sailors scuttle the Kyros and embark another ship. The whooping 900 bottles – containing the best of the French winemaking prowess – were buried under the sea.
Back in 1999, the wreck was discovered, but it was too dangerous at the time to extract it. Twenty years later, a team of Swedish and Icelandic salvage hunters finally decided to get on it.
Following years of preparation, they set off for the hunt aboard the international vessel Deepsea Worker. Using her robots, they finally managed to salvage around 600 bottles of De Haartman & Co cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine liqueur.
The bottles they put on display appear to be intact. Some of them even bear original wax seals and markings.
“The importance of this event cannot be overemphasized – it’s not only a find of rare cognac and liqueur but also a part of history of the former imperial Russia,” Ocean Explorer, the Swedish team, wrote on their website.
The prize is special given that Benedictine cognac is no longer in production and its maker, which traces its roots to French monks, has been taken over by Bacardi.
“[We] are excited to hear about the find and are eager to learn if the product has been preserved for the duration of the stay under water,” said Bacardi’s marketing manager Petra Caspolin.Indeed, the company has fair chances to put the retro liquor under microscope… unless the hunters go for a good sip of it.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!