Adventurers Search for Hidden Whiskey, $100,000

Contestants vie for South Pacific trip to search for long-lost case of whiskey.

ByABC News
September 17, 2010, 4:11 PM

Sept. 21, 2010— -- John Blewett and a friend spent 13 weeks in 1978 following odd clues and racing thousands of other people to find a case of whiskey hidden somewhere in New York. Thanks to some good amateur sleuthing, persistence and luck, they beat everybody to the booze hidden atop a Manhattan skyscraper.

Now 32 years later, Blewett hopes to search the jungles of the South Pacific island nation of Tonga to find another case. This time, there's a $100,000 prize attached to the whiskey.

Between 1967 and 1991 distiller Canadian Club hid 25 cases of whiskey in remote locations around the world, including Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Great Barrier Reef and the North Pole, and released clues through a series of ads in Life, Look and other magazines to where the cases were hidden.

However, not all of the cases were found. In fact, nobody has been able to locate one successfully since 1980, leaving nine crates still hidden in their original spots.

So Canadian Club decided to revive its 1960s marketing campaign and recruit treasure hunters though a competition to find the case in Tonga.

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Blewett, who is now 56 and lives in Rhode Island, is one of 16 American and Canadian semifinalists (half are from each nation) vying for eight spots on the Tonga expedition. The public is voting on video entries at Canadian Club's website through the end of the month. All but two are men.

"I'll be the one who finds it. It's just a gut feeling," Blewett told ABC News. "I looked at the other videos. I've got it over those guys."

Canadian Club originally started the campaign to promote its drink to men who wanted to relax after an adventure -- "guys that wanted to get out of the house and try different things," said Brian Stockard, brand manager for Canadian Club.

"At the time there wasn't a cash prize," he said. "It was about finding the case and telling the world about it."

Searchers went to extremes to find cases. In 1968, David Mattoon was a young groom who hijacked his honeymoon and brought his wife Diana to the jungle to search for a case hidden at Venezuela's Angel Falls. She thought they were going to a Mexican beach for a relaxing honeymoon until her new husband told her the real plan on the plane.

An original ad for a case hidden at the North Pole.

Blewett is reentering the hunt because he's always wanted to go to the South Pacific. Canadian Club invited him to the launch event of this new promotion. It was there, he said, that he decided once again to search for a case of whiskey.

"If I don't win it, it's OK. Getting to Tonga is a win for me," he said.

But if he does, the 12 bottles will be shared with all his friends who are voting for him.

"And then the wife has plans for all the money," Blewett said.