Chiang Mai girl’s Everest climb inspires world’s largest whiskey bottle

The theme of the World’s Largest Bottle of Whisky inspired by the incredible trek of Amelia Monk, one of the youngest people in the world to make it to Everest Base Camp.

By | Fri 10 Jun 2022

On May 25th, 2022 the World’s Largest Whisky Bottle sold at auction for £1.1 million (approximately 47,386,911 baht). The “Intrepid” by Lyon & Turnbull, in partnership with Fah Mai and Rosewin Holdings, set the Guinness World Record on September 9th of 2021 standing at 1.8 metres, holding 311 liters of 32-year-old Macallan Whisky. The effort that went into making this bottle was extensive but the story which inspired the Intrepid’s theme, the record-setting trek of Amelia Monk, is even more compelling.

In 2020, Amelia Monk was an active 8-year-old living in Chiang Mai who had already been on numerous adventures across the world from Borneo to Japan. When her father, Daniel, proposed the idea of climbing to the Base Camp at Mount Everest, she jumped at the opportunity. Amelia knew immediately that she wanted to use this experience to fundraise for her favourite charity Hands to Paws, a volunteer-based organisation that provides healthcare services to the street dogs of Chiang Mai. That March the pair met Daniel Monk’s friends Louis Haseman, Nat Lewarne, and Gregg Bolshaw in Kathmandu and so began their 12-day trek into the Himalayas.

The hike to Everest Base Camp is incredibly strenuous for the fittest adult hikers in the world, let alone an 8-year-old girl. On Amelia’s JustGiving fundraiser blog, she documented the gritty details of her trip from taking “wet wipe showers” to sleeping with a hot-water bottle for warmth at Hotel Mother Earth. It was when the incredible climb was nearing its end that every hiker’s worst fear came to pass: Daniel came down with altitude sickness. Knowing he was unable to continue the journey, Daniel’s heart ached to break the news to his daughter as he believed she wouldn’t make the journey without him. The news, however, didn’t phase Amelia. According to Daniel, she confidently turned to her father and said,

“No Daddy, you go down… I have to finish for the dogs.”

Although it was quite against Daniel’s parental instincts, his daughter’s fortitude swayed him. And so the pair parted ways: Daniel heading back down the trail and young Ameilia continuing with the group and guide to Base Camp. Amelia recalled her last difficult moments on the trail, saying that every step towards Base Camp was dedicated to the hungry dogs she would meet there.

“When I was trying to get up I would say…One step: breakfast for the dog, another step: lunch for the dog, another step: dinner for the dog…”, Amelia said.

Amelia Monk finally made it to Everest’s Base Camp on March 9th, 2020 making her then the youngest hiker to have ever made the trek. The most excitement for Amelia wasn’t necessarily from the achievement itself, but from all the dogs she befriended at Base Camp. Father and daughter were reunited and flew out of the country just in time before the COVID pandemic closed Nepal’s borders. Amelia’s charity campaign raised £820 (about 35,446 baht) for Hand to Paws.

The World Whisky Expert and the Founder of the Intrepid, Daniel Monk began his escapade previous to Amelia’s climb two years ago while brainstorming marketing strategies and campaigns. Daniel has long been in the alcohol industry, investing in Premium Single Malt Whisky Distilleries all over the world. He then came to the idea of building an enormous bottle of whisky as a means of getting noticed. Then the Guinness World Record was held by The Famous Grouse with a bottle that stood at 1.65 metres holding 228 litres of blended whiskey. With this knowledge, Daniel picked up the gauntlet and began his campaign to set a new world record.

Step one in Daniel’s quest was obtaining the bottle, but where could one find a whisky bottle towering at 1.8 metres? Daniel and his team began calling every bottle and glass blowing company in England, and at every turn, they were told that such a task was impossible. This search and series of denials continued for the next five months until finally Bomma, a glass-blowing company from the Czech Republic, said ‘yes’. The enormous cork was to be imported from the top cork harvesters in Portugal. It was at this point in the process that Daniel and Amelia made their Himalayan journey, which inspired the theme for Daniel’s Intrepid: exploration.

Driven by the accomplishments of his daughter, Daniel Monk wanted to give credit to the world’s greatest explorers and provide exploration and environmentally driven charities with exposure in conjunction with his record-breaking bottle. Monk then began reaching out to some of the most well-known outdoorsmen and women across the world to feature them on the Intrepid: Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Dr. Geoff Wilson, Karen Darke MBE, Olly Hicks, Sarah Outen MBE, Dwayne Fields FRGS, Levison Wood FRGS, Felicity Aston MBE and past Scottish Adventurers of the Year Jamie Ramsay and Will Copestake.

Making contact with these incredible individuals was an adventure in and of itself. Daniel recalled how he had difficulty initially reaching Sir Ranulph Fiennes, he went to Exmoor, England to find him. After a wild search which included tracking down the local postman and running a few miles to the door of Sir Fiennes, Daniel finally met one of his heroes.

“He came out of the bushes with his finger sticking out at me, in camo trousers, camo hat, no top…”, Daniel recalled.

Another miraculous encounter was with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who one day just happened to pull his yacht right behind Daniel’s when docking in Plymouth. These featured explorers all chose respective charities to promote with the Intrepid. For example, Dwyane Fields featured his own charity, Team #WeTwo, which currently is gathering a group of underprivileged young explorers to take to Antarctica.

Daniel Monk hopes the story of the Intrepid and how it came to be may be encouraging to others. Although the record-breaking bottle began as a marketing campaign, for Daniel it ended as a medium to promote one’s dreams and aspirations.

“Projects like this keep me alive inside…” said Daniel, “[People] chase money…but this was so much more.”