Nearly 50 years ago, Canadian Club Whisky hid 25 cases of their whiskey around the globe and advertised clues to their location. A search ensued, but the locations proved to be too difficult; 16 of those cases have never been found. If you have the taste for adventure (and whiskey), you might want to read on.
The story of Canadian Club began when Hiram Walker made hard apple cider in the back of his grocery store in 1830’s Detroit, Michigan. In the following years, he began to perfect his distilling techniques but as prohibition loomed near, Detroit adopted a “dry” policy. So in 1858, he opened his first distillery in a small town across the Detroit River in Ontario called Walkerville. The town was aptly named because Walker founded it for his company, built out its infrastructure, and employed its residents. His philosophy was to build a recognizable brand of liquor that was easy to drink which was in comparison to the standards of the time that generally involved drinking liquors that were unregulated, unbranded and varied in flavor from bottle to bottle.
His whisky became popular with US and Canadian gentlemen’s clubs and hence it became known as Club Whisky. As its presence in the US market grew, so did the attention from rising American Bourbon distilleries. They joined together and convinced the US government to enact a law in the late 1800’s forcing alcoholic beverages imported from Canada to contain the country of origin on their labels in order to distinguish them from domestic spirits. From that point on, Walkers label became Canadian Club Whisky. This effort backfired, however, giving Canadian Club Whisky a more exclusive appeal.
When American Prohibition officially took hold in the 1920’s, American gangsters, such as Al Capone, became some of Canadian Club’s top customers as they smuggled thousands of cases across the border into the US to supply thirsty customers at speakeasies around the country.
In 1967, Hiram Walker and Sons launched a new marketing campaign called “Hide a Case” where they hid 25 cases of Canadian Club Whisky around the world in remote locations, such as the North Pole, the Great Barrier Reef, Death Valley, and the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. They then advertised clues through various magazines and media outlets, challenging would-be adventurers to solve puzzles as they travel the globe in search of a free case.
Of the 25 original cases, only 16 of them were found. The campaign was revitalized over the years, in some cases to include locations deemed easier to reach for those who could not afford the time and expense of extreme adventure and travel. One series of clues ended at a case hidden on the top of a New York skyscraper. Most recently, in 2010, the challenge was reinvigorated to include social media where thousands of potential adventurers signed up and competed in various online tasks and challenges to earn a spot in the final search for one of the original cases as well as a $100,000 prize. The final contestants competed to solve various clues on a journey that started in Canada and ended on the remote island of Tonga, New Zealand.
But several of the cases remain in the wild, drenched in years of weather and time, begging to be discovered. How bad do you want a drink?