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The Road Less Travelled

What do a record-breaking adventurer and a wooden-boat craftsman have in common? An unwavering thirst for travel.

Humankind has been blessed with a number of remarkable adventurers. And the two that Johnnie Walker and Alfred Dunhill have chosen to star in their latest ad campaign for the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Edition Collection designed by Alfred Dunhill – entitled Celebrating A Journey Shared – perfectly embody not just the spirit of adventure (pun intended), but also of companionship and bonding experiences.

The first man is Jason Lewis, an award-winning author and explorer, best known as the first person to circumnavigate the globe on human power. The 46-year-old’s journey is peppered with incidents of a kind of storybook-unbelievability that makes you truly marvel at human resilience. When he was struck with malaria in Laos, he soldiered on. When he was hit by a drunk driver while rollerblading across Colorado, he spent nine months recovering from two broken legs, then continued. When his original partner Stevie Smith almost drowned and retired from the expedition, he remained undeterred, and eventually paired up with Chris Tipper, the man who built the boat that Lewis used for this very journey.

Tipper, a 47-year-old wooden-boat specialist, spent a year building the pedal-powered Moksha for Lewis and Smith to set off in back in 1994. And it was six years later when they reunited to make the 2,092km journey from Tarawa to the Solomon Islands.

Lewis eventually completed his goal in 2007, and has once again joined Tipper – on a significantly smoother journey – to film a road trip from London to Scotland as part of the campaign video. After a launch party showcasing the beautiful collectibles in London, they spared a few moments to share some of their experiences.

A stunning vintage Jaguar E Type was the vehicle of choice on this particular journey, with plenty of Johnnie Walker whisky waiting for them at each drive's end.
A stunning vintage Jaguar E Type was the vehicle of choice on this particular journey, with plenty of Johnnie Walker whisky waiting for them at each drive’s end.

What was the toughest moment of the expedition?
Lewis: I was stuck in a countercurrent – the doldrums – at some point in the Pacific Ocean. Because I was on my own, I would make about 24km in 18 hours of pedalling before I had to go to sleep. When I woke up I was right back where I started. After two-and-a-half weeks, I was losing my mind. I wasn’t just talking to the fishes, I was talking to three characters I had made up: an Irishman with a crazy Northern Irish accent, that Frenchman from Monty Python and a German U-boat captain. It was just a way to keep myself company; we’d have little arguments. I would ask, “What are we going to have for supper?”, and my imaginary German friend would reply, “Shut up English fool, we are having sauerkraut.” I eventually got lucky as the current fluctuated and I got out. But I had to tell myself to arrive as “me”, and not that crazy guy with three personalities.

Any near-death experiences?
I had a terrible time arriving in Australia. I was paddling in from the Great Barrier Reef and a saltwater crocodile followed me onto land. I could see it coming as I was trying to drag my kayak out of the water – my kayak had all my food and supplies in it. I tried to use my big timber paddle to push the crocodile away but it had latched onto my paddle like a lollipop and we had a little tug-of-war. I finally got it to let go by shoving the paddle further into its mouth. It broke the paddle in two but at least the kayak was safe. I spent the night on a headland but I could see the crocodile patrolling the waters. It probably thought my kayak was a rival.

That’s rather fearless…
Not at all. After the incident with the crocodile, I ended up vomiting on the beach from delayed shock. The farther I got into the trip, the more bad things happened. I remember being at my wit’s end and jumping off my boat to go after a food bag that had fallen off. By the time I was swimming back to the boat, it was already downwind and I almost drowned. But the more these things happen to you, the more you get detached from them. You learn to just deal with the situation.

Chris Tipper, did you ever think that you would get to sail in the boat you built for Jason Lewis?
Tipper: I always suspected that there might be an opportunity that I would get to be in it, though I didn’t really entertain the idea. But, when I met up with Jason again, I somehow knew what he was going to ask me. I knew how I would answer before he even said anything.

Lewis: It just made sense to invite the person who built the thing. It’s not like I got it from a big boatyard where I have no connection to the company. Moksha was Chris’ labour of love, his baby. It wasn’t just another commercial job for him.

Travelling with a friend can be trying, even under the cushiest of circumstances. How did you two make it through?
Lewis: By being very silly. We poke fun at each other a little bit. When something’s really bugging you about the other person, you can’t just come out and say it because it’ll be a challenge to deal with it in that kind of situation. We try to save each other’s faces, so we joke. For example, “Oh Chris, you’re not eating another Mars bar are you? You greedy bastard!” That sort of puts the message across.

Tipper: We also have competitive egos. We’re always trying to be funnier than the other. But you also need empathy, to know when to pull back.

The road trip must have been a breeze then, since it was done in different segments.
Tipper: It was like a gift, this bit of luxury indulgence. I felt like we deserved it! The Jaguar E Type we were driving was made in 1962, and I happen to have an old boat that was built in the same year. It took me seven years to restore that. So it was nice to be able to think about the craftsmanship back in those days.

Lewis: When you’re in a boat, you’re more immediately connected to your environment. You become part of the ocean because the shell between you and the outside is so thin. Being in a car is a completely different dynamic, if it’s a modern model. It practically drives itself. But this E Type was constantly rattling and you’re always wrestling with the wheel. The brakes are so terrible that, if you want to stop, you’d better start doing it half an hour before you actually need to stop. But this way, you’re a lot more involved in the journey.

JOHNNIE WALKER

A PARALLEL PASSAGE
Blended Scotch whisky distillers Johnnie Walker and English fashion house Alfred Dunhill have paired up to launch the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Limited Edition Collection. Designed by the menswear label, the collection includes two limited-edition gift packs – one of which is exclusive to travel retail – and a Travellers’ Trunk.

The gift packs (pictured) feature Dunhill’s signature blue “Chassis” design and gunmetal finish on the packaging, with bottles etched with a wave-like motif echoing the contours of a map. The travel retail pack, though, features a bigger, 1-litre bottle over the usual 750ml, a well as an added special copper finishing inspired by the distillery’s copper stills.

The Travellers’ Trunk is a more obvious ode to the theme of a journey shared, and an exquisitely crafted one at that. Inspired by vintage car trunks, the portable case sports the regal hue of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, along with leather straps, a handle punctuated by Sam Browne studs and a wood interior that’s been carved to resemble the curves of rolling landscapes. Only 500 of these will be made, and those fortunate enough to get their hands on one will also find four engraved crystal glasses, a whisky funnel, a pair of ice tongs, and a Dunhill hunter flask inside.