Swimming in the Name of Science and Whisky

JOIN THEM on their next great adventure: The Mezcal Trail

On 29 July 2017, Explorers Club Members Chad Anderson and Justin Fornal, along with fellow swimmer Johnnie Mundell, completed the world's first circumnavigational swim of the 100-mile coastline of slay, Scotland. Throughout the swim the Explorers carried the official flag of the Explorers Club UK Chapter. This historic expedition took eight days and followed in the footsteps of Alfred Barnard who, in the late 1880's, made an epic journey with friends visiting all the working distilleries of Islay. His book, "The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom," describes in great detail the distilleries of that era and is coveted by whisky connoisseurs and historians alike. slay scotch whisky is undoubtedly the best in the world and also he most unique. That is why, from the very beginning, we intended this expedition to be a celebration of Islay - including each of the local distilleries, paying tribute to the whisky heritage of the island, honoring local ruins and historical sites, and retracing history. Fornal and Anderson's expedition team included a botanist, architectural historian, and a film crew to record the trip and investigate the island’s geography.

Our experienced sea captain, Gus Newman of Islay Sea Adventures, helped us to navigate the weather and the tides. Without him, we likely could not have accomplished such a feat. At one point on the wild north shore, we encountered 10-foot swells; on the southeast, we encountered the roughest seas wind and tide conflicted and violently stymieing our progress; and through the Sound of Islay, we slipped through reaching speeds of 7.2 knots. Gus also provided the kayaks needed for our support team, critical for monitoring, safety, and nourishing the swimmers.

HISTORY: Following in Alfred Barnard's footsteps

HERITAGE: Paying tribute to the whisky heritage of Islay

ARCHITECTURE: Honoring local ruins and historical sites

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The Whisky

Throughout the journey, the Expedition team carried with them a 30 gallon oak cask which they filled incrementally at all of Islay's active whisky distilleries. Dubbed ‘The Explorer Cask’, the resulting spirit has been left to marry for several months before being bottled and sold by American independent bottler Single Cask Nation. Just 125 bottles of the blended malt will go on sale Q1/Q2 2018, with all proceeds going to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI).

The science

The whiskys of Islay are some of the most unique in the world. Their unmistakable taste is the result of specific water sources, peat composition, and local barley. The expedition land team collected water, peat, and barley samples from each distillery to document what gives each house its distinct characteristics. Our botanist also collected samples of flora that is endemic to the region.  The Kayak Team documented local marine flora and fauna found in the waters surrounding the island. Architectural historian James Sexton observed and reported on historic buildings and ruins found along the route. 

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