A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

In those old Canadian Club ads, did anyone find the hidden cases of whiskey?

February 2, 1979

Dear Cecil:

In the 70s Canadian Club whiskey had a print advertising campaign that challenged devoted drinkers, or anyone else, to go to great lengths to find hidden cases of the stuff. Allegedly these cases were placed in places like Manhattan (for the urban adventurer) and the North Pole. The ads gave clues and coordinates to help treasure hunters. I'm curious to know if anyone ever seriously accepted the challenge and whether any of the cases turned up.

Cecil replies:

Amazing as it may seem to upright persons such as ourselves, Kevin, there are those among us who lead lives of such uproarious decadence that they've got nothing better to do than look for cases of booze — a sorry commentary on the declining moral character of the nation, if you ask me. As a matter of fact, most of the hidden cases of C.C. were found.

The Hiram Walker company, which distributes Canadian Club, has long pursued the macho line in its promotion of the brand. Oldtimers may recall the ads of the early 60s, in which various desperadoes would perform (or claim to perform) acts of suicidal bravery, such as wrestling with a shark, after which they'd retire to the lounge for a jolt of C.C. In this way Canadian Club was associated in the public mind with crazy people, the core whiskey-drinking demographic.

The treasure hunt campaign was an extension of this line of thinking. When the project was first launched in 1967, the cases were planted in exotic locales like Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Angel Falls in Venezuela. In the beginning Hiram Walker didn't expect anyone to actually go and look for the stuff. The Mt. Kilimanjaro case, in fact, wasn't discovered until the mid-70s, when a Danish journalist stumbled over it while on an expedition.

However, it swiftly became clear that there were any number of well-to-do guppies out there who were willing to frivol away their fortunes looking for a crate of hootch. The case buried near Angel Falls, for example, was found by a young hero on his honeymoon. The little lady had the idea they were going to go to Acapulco until they boarded the plane, when she learned that in fact she'd be traipsing through the jungle being eaten by vermin. How romantic!

The original promotion concluded in 1971 but was resurrected around 1975. In the second version it was intended that most of the cases would be found, so they were generally hidden closer to hand, e.g., near the reputed site of the Lost Dutchman Mine in Arizona, in Death Valley, and so forth. The depositing of the case was coupled with heavy regional advertising to stir up interest amonst the locals. As a result, most of the cases didn't stay hidden long. The box in Arizona was found in about a week; a case hidden atop a skyscraper in New York, a less hospitable locale, eluded searchers for 13 weeks.

Still, some of the whiskey will probably never be found. A case dumped off in the Arctic is thought to have passed forever beyond the ken of man, what with blizzards and ice movements.

The Hiram Walker people finally tired of the "Hide-A-Case" campaign and retired it in 1981. In all, 22 cases were hidden during the period 1967-1981; 16 were found in fairly short order and a few others may have drifted in since. Sure, it was all a silly gimmick, but Canadian Club advertising to my mind has never been as memorable since. Bring back the hidden cases.

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