Think Mad Men meets Survivor. That’s the scenario that will play out this summer when eight whisky-loving contestants traipse through the back of beyond in search of a long-ago secreted case of Canadian Club. It’s the rebirth of the distiller’s "Hide A Case" promotion that began in 1967, when the company cached 12 bottles of hooch somewhere among the ice fields of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. (The case was discovered by accident 10 years later.) In subsequent years the company stashed the spirits in such exotic locales as the Great Barrier Reef of Australia; Death Valley, California; and Angel Falls, Venezuela. With each new newly sequestered case, the company published magazine advertisements filled with clues to the location, stirring the imagination of treasure hunters everywhere.
The last of 25 cases was hidden—and quickly discovered—in Washington, D.C., in 1980. But nine cases have never been found. Their locations include the Canadian Yukon Territory; Loch Ness, Scotland; Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile; Ujiji, Tanzania; Lake Placid, New York; and the North Pole. Clues for three other hidden cases have never been publicly released.
Starting today, Canadian Club is reviving the Hide A Case campaign, with a focus on one of those remaining cases. To register (you must be an American or Canadian resident), log onto HideACase.com. Contestants will be presented with a series of challenges each week worth 10 points. At the end of six weeks, those who have earned at least 50 points will be invited to post an online video explaining why they should be chosen as a finalist. Judges will choose the 30 best videos, and online voters will determine the finalists—four Americans and four Canadians, in honor of the brand’s dual Canadian and American history. The contestant who wins gets not only the case, but a check for $100,000!
Finding a hidden case isn’t going to be easy. You need to use your wits. John Blewett, a self-effacing mechanical engineer, found one in Manhattan in 1978 with a friend of his after searching for months. “We finally located the building we thought was the right place, then dressed up like delivery guys to get past security,” he told me last week. “It was hidden under a desk in an advertising office.”
Larry Hedrick found his case in a far more remote location—beneath a fire pit at a campsite near the Lost Dutchman gold mine in the Suspicion Mountains of Arizona. “I could tell by the way someone had laid the twigs across the top that this wasn’t an Arizona fire pit,” he told me over drinks at the Explorers Club in New York. “You could tell it had been made by a bunch of Eastern infidels, so I started diggin’ and found the case buried about two feet down.”
You don’t have to enter the formal contest to search out one of the remaining cases on your own. You can always dig up one of the old Canadian Club magazine ads with the clues. But then there’s the matter of the $100,000 bonus, which is yours only if you win the official contest.
I’ve already signed up. And I intend to win.
Mark Orwoll is the international editor at Travel + Leisure.