Above the clouds

Above the clouds

Joe Bates gives in-flight duty-free a chance

Travel Retail | 24 Jul 2009 | Issue 81 | By Joe Bates

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In the four years I have been writing this column we have covered plenty of airports, as well as the odd border shop and ferry line.

However, one channel of distribution, which I have yet to touch on, is the duty-free in-flight business, which is worth £1.72 billion in annual sales.

I am sure most of us have idly flicked our way through a dog-eared in-flight magazine during a particularly long flight, but how many people actually buy something? It’s a shame as prices are often competitive and many airlines now operate a convenient on-line pre-order (and in some cases home delivery) service.

For reasons of space and weight, the selection of whiskies available tends to be small, but there are some gems out there if you know where to look. For example, British Airways (BA) is currently offering the very collectable Glenury Royal 36 Years Old at £475 as part of its Premium Collection, along with Highland Park 30 Years Old (£145) and Rosebank 25 Years Old (£150).

From a whisky perspective the pickings are slimmer over at BA’s archrival Virgin Atlantic, but even there you will find an exclusive Glenfiddich bottling to be snapped up. Available only as a pre-order item, Glenfiddich Virgin Atlantic Private Vintage 1978 is priced at £250 and only 250 bottles were released.

The in-flight shopping brochures of the big Asian carriers are also well worth a look. As you might expect, they tend to major on ultra-premium blends.

Thai Air, for instance, stocks Royal Salute 21 Years Old at $93, while Cathay Pacific carries both Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V at$400, and Chivas Regal 25 Years Old at $240.

True, the ubiquitous Johnnie Walker Black Label tends to appear in almost every in-flight magazine I have come across, but I would still urge travellers to browse the duty-free pages next time they fly.You never know what you might find.


Sonnalta PX

Glenmorangie has come up trumps with this latest travel-retail exclusive offering. It is refreshing to find an exclusive, where the liquid inside the bottle matches the superb quality of the bottle and gift carton.

This powerful whisky has finished its maturation in ex- Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and boy does it show.The colour is impressively dark and on the nose the whisky exudes a heady mix of hot chocolate and rich coffee.The flavour is rich and full of dried fruits and honey.

Bottled at a strength of 46% abv, travellers will find Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX at major international airports priced at about £62.99.


40 Years Old

Here is a release for the serious collector. Glengoyne has allocated just 250 decanters of its oldest ever whisky to the duty-free channel.

Glengoyne 40 Years Old is intriguingly described as having a nose of red apples, crème brulée and strawberries and cream.The taste offers ripe bananas, spiced plums, honey and cereal, before drying into grapefruit and soft oak, with a long and lingering dry finish.

The handsome decanter and packaging is everything you’d expect with a £3,000 whisky.The hand blown crystal decanter is made by an independent Scottish company, Glencairn Crystal, while the presentation box is made out of 11 times lacquered piano-finished solid oak.
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