Shipwreck turns up century-old liquor that might be worth millions

Photo: Nigel Marsh (iStock)

Over a century ago, during the height of World War I, the S.S. Kyros—a Swedish freighter full of fancy booze meant for Russian aristocrats and very possibly for Czar Nicholas II himself—set sail from France. It was almost at its destination of St. Petersburg when it encountered the German U-boat UC-58, which did not care much for either the Russians or their czar’s appetite for Benedictine.

As Wine Spectator explains, UC-58 sank the Kyros after it was determined that, in addition to the 2 tons of spirits on board, the ship was carrying materials presumed to be aiding the Russian war effort. The shipwreck lay 250 feet below the surface of the Baltic Sea until it was discovered by a team of researchers, Ocean X, in 1999. (The team then lost the location of the ship, but rediscovered it in 2014.) Why would Wine Spectator be covering this story? Because in a recent press release, Ocean X has announced that as of October 2019, the precious cargo of the Kyros has finally been recovered after a painstaking process of extracting it from tangled underwater fishing nets. Of the two tons of alcohol that were originally on board, the crew was able to recover 600 bottles of De Haartman & Co. cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine liqueur.

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According to CNN, the crew does not yet know how much of the haul is drinkable, though the odds are good that many of the bottles are still fit for human consumption. Many bottles have had their corks well sealed thanks to high water pressure, and some cognac bottles are still sealed with a thin layer of tin.

Ocean X’s Peter Lindberg told Wine Spectator the research team is currently getting the bottles appraised so that they may be sold at auction—current estimates anticipate the find to be worth several million dollars. The Russian aristocrats of the early 20th century may never have had the opportunity to savor the Kyros’ cargo, but the modern elite might just have their chance.

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About the author

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, host of The Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, the author of three books, and a swan meat influencer.