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Around the country in 60 distilleries

Written in 1873, Jules Verne’s acclaimed adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days saw Phileas Fogg and his newly employed French valet Passepartout attempt to circumnavigate the world in just 80 days on a £20,000 wager. Now, in 2017, World Whisky Day founder Blair Bowman will attempt to go around the country (Scotland) in 60 distilleries, in just one day, all in the name of charity.

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Taking place on Monday the 15th May, The Great Whisky Distillery Challenge will set off from the aptly named Balblair Distillery (no relation) in Ross-shire as Bowman and his support team seek to visit a whopping 60 distilleries in just one day.

This record breaking attempt is one of many events taking place across the world to tie in with World Whisky Day celebrations on May 20th. Finishing up an expected 17 hours later, at the Aberfeldy distillery in Perthshire, Bowman hopes to have amassed a unique collection of around 50 whiskies that will be raffled in aid of international water development charity Just a Drop.

“Bowman hopes to have amassed a unique collection of around 50 whiskies that will be raffled in aid of international water development charity Just a Drop”

“It’s going to be a fantastic event,” says Blair. “As far as we are aware, no-one has attempted to set a record like this before and, despite meticulous planning, there is always a risk that we might not get to all 60 of the distilleries on the day. We can’t afford for a single thing to go wrong. It just needs a few tractors or caravans to hold us up and we will be under pressure.

“All the money raised will go to Just a Drop, which brings clean water to some of the poorest communities in the world. The word ‘whisky’ means ‘water of life’ in Gaelic, so this seems like an appropriate challenge and hopefully it will help raise a lot of money for such a deserving cause.”

There’s something truly poetic about whisky helping to provide clean water to those that need it most, and this is a sentiment that isn’t lost on Just a Drop’s Founder and CEO, Fiona Jeffrey OBE: “As a fellow Scot and founder of a water charity, I couldn’t be more proud for Just a Drop to be associated with this awesome challenge, as the relationship between water and whisky is so unique. I wish Blair and his team the best of luck and hope he manages to smash the record!

“The more money raised, the more communities we can support by providing access to one of life’s absolute necessities: a supply of clean water, which empowers people to lead healthier, safer and more productive lives, so please dig deep and support this great event.”

“The more money raised, the more communities we can support by providing access to one of life’s absolute necessities: a supply of clean water”

Launched in 1998, Just a Drop is an international water development charity with a very simple mission: to bring clean safe water, sanitation and hygiene to communities, reducing the number of children dying as a result of water-related diseases. Working with local partners at a grassroots level, Just a Drop provides clean water and sanitation facilities to some of the poorest communities around the world through the construction of handdug and borehole wells, pipelines, hand pumps, sand dams, rainwater harvesting tanks, rock catchments and latrines; and establishes health and sanitation programmes.

And while the relationship between whisky and water is as clear as the latter should be, the origins of such a unique challenge are not quite as immediately obvious. The brilliant idea came from Willie Wallace, who has been running whisky tours in Scotland for 20 years. “When I first started doing whisky tours I always found it difficult to find places to visit on a Sunday,” Willie explained. “None of the visitors centres were open but one of the things our clients enjoyed was going on a distillery hunt. This usually involved spotting a plume of steam and then searching for the pagoda to go with it. It was amazing how often we found a distillery we hadn’t been aware of before. It was then I had the idea for this Challenge, so it’s been many years in the planning. I feel sure that, with the amazing support of the distillers and our other sponsors, we can make a difference to the fantastic work of Just a Drop and have some fun along the way.

The 60 distilleries taking part in the Great Whisky Distillery Challenge (whom you can take a look at to the right) have been asked to donate a bottle of whisky, which will be collected on the day of the recordbreaking attempt. As not all of the distilleries to be visited bottle their own-brand whisky, the team hopes to end up with around 50 bottles of Scotland’s national drink. This incredible collection of whisky will then be offered as the main prize in a raffle, with all proceeds going to Just a Drop. It’s safe to say the winner won’t go thirsty for a long, long time.

Two runners up will receive a fourday whisky tour for two to Speyside, courtesy of Scottish Routes, while ten more raffle winners will get their hands on a copy of Blair Bowman’s new book The Pocket Guide to Whisky – which is based around the innovative WhiskyTubeMap.

Speaking of trains, Phileas Fogg arrived back in London five minutes after his deadline, certain he had lost the wager, upon missing his. It wasn’t until the next day that Fogg discovered that, because he and his party crossed the International Date Line on their travels, he had in fact gained a day and was able to meet his deadline in the nick of time to win the wager. We just hope Blair and his crew are able to complete their challenge in much less dram-atic fashion.

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Originally published in Issue 3 of our Flavourly magazine. Written by Kevin O’Donnell.

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