The bottles of brandy and Benedictine liqueur were cargo on a vessel sunk during World War I.

By Mike Pomranz
November 15, 2019

It took two decades, but the Swedish shipwreck recovery experts at Ocean X Team finally got what they were after: 50 cases of cognac and 15 cases of liqueur dating back at least 100 years. Consider the extra 20-year wait a bit of additional aging time.

Courtesy of Ocean X Team

First discovered back in 1999, the S.S. Kyros was a Swedish ship sunk by a German submarine in 1917 during World War I. According to Ocean X Team, the ship was attempting to deliver the now-recovered booze from France to Russia, under the assumption that the neutral Swedes wouldn't be messed with. But apparently the Germans believed the Kyros was carrying contraband, so though the crew was safely returned to Sweden, the vessel itself was disposed of by sinking it to the bottom of the ocean—250 feet down into the international waters of the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland.

Courtesy of Ocean X Team

Despite being found before Y2K, as Ocean X Team explains, the remains of the S.S. Kyros wreck have "during the years been heavily damaged by fishing trawls and trawl boards," and as a result, several time, it has "been cleared from nets to make it possible for divers and unmanned underwater vehicles (ROV's) to access the wreck." But on October 22, the Deepsea Worker salvage vessel returned to Sweden with the final haul of cargo recovered from the Kyros—a significant supply of De Haartman & Co cognac and Benedictine liqueur, the latter of which is still produced by Bacardi.

Courtesy of Ocean X Team

"Bacardi, being the owner of the Benedictine brand, a product that was created more than 500 years ago by French monks, 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," Petra Caspolin, marketing manager at Bacardi in the Nordics, was quoted as saying.

Bacardi does bring up an important question. Whether any of the recovered booze is still palatable isn't clear. Also, Ocean X Team didn't suggest a value for the haul in their announcement, though clearly how well the spirits were preserved would play a role in that. Still, the team called it worth the effort regardless. "The importance of this event cannot be overemphasized," the announcement proclaimed. "It's not only a find of rare cognac and liqueur but also a part of history of the former imperial Russia."

Courtesy of Ocean X Team

So in the end, the Swedes have finally completed this World War I delivery… by delivering it to themselves. They just had to employ the "100 years under the sea and we keep it" rule.

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