Aelia Opens up at Luton

Aelia Opens up at Luton

New duty free store opens including a whisky tasting bar

Travel Retail | 02 Sep 2016 | Issue 138 | By Joe Bates

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London Luton, the UK's fifth biggest airport, has always had something of an image problem. It grew in tandem with the rise in popularity of the cheap package holiday in the 1970s and 80s, and as British readers of a certain vintage might recall, it was memorably name-checked in a famous TV advert for Campari of the time.

The advert depicted a glamorous lady on a sun-drenched holiday who is wooed by a suave Southern European gentlemen, asking her, "Were you truly wafted here from paradise?" Her immortal reply came in a Cockney accent, "Nah, Luton airport!" Even today London Luton airport suffers from a poor reputation it would seem. In a recent survey of British holidaymakers' views on 15 UK airports carried out by travel website cheapflights.co.uk, Luton came bottom in all but one of a range of criteria that included everything from check-in and security to general cleanliness and wi-fi access.

It's not all bad though. A £120 million revamp of the airport is underway and as part of that project a bright new, spacious walk-through duty free store opened in the departures terminal in April. Run by French firm Aelia, the new shop definitely takes things into the 21st Century, boasting a tasting bar, a free gift-wrapping service, a touch screen navigation point, and a new Whisky Studio concept developed by Diageo.

The Whisky Studio is located in the middle of the shop's back wall and features shelves dedicated to the myriad of Johnnie Walker expressions that are now out there, along with others devoted to some of the company's bigger malt brands such as Talisker and The Singleton. Travellers can also have fun with an interactive distillery feature which allows them to learn more about how whisky is made.

Either side of The Whisky Studio are display cabinets devoted to the big names of duty free whisky - The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Chivas Regal and Jack Daniel's. Now London Luton is still dominated by UK charter traffic and many holidaymakers are keen to replenish their drinks cabinet in duty free, stocking up on standard blends. Will they get a good deal? It's a question certainly worth asking given the number of UK press stories appearing recently, suggesting duty free is a rip off.

Well, when I checked Aelia's online shopping pre-order site, 1 litre bottles of Johnnie Walker Red Label and The Famous Grouse were both discounted to £11.89 and £14.69 respectively. At Tesco supermarket a 1 litre bottle of The Famous Grouse costs £19 while a smaller 70cl bottle of Johnnie Walker Red was priced at £20. There were also good savings to be found on J&B, priced at £22.50 in Tesco for a 70cl bottle, but to be had at Luton airport for £17.39 for a larger 1 litre bottle.

The range of malts available at London Luton is not as extensive as at larger UK airports, but all of the most popular names are well represented. Among the drams stocked is the classic Aberlour A'bunadh at £66.49, matured in Spanish oloroso sherry butts at a cask strength of 59.7% ABV.

At the other end of the flavour spectrum is Ardbeg 10 Years Old (£53.99), yet another one of those try-before-you-die drams, a complex whirl of tobacco, liquorice and peat smoke flavours. If there was ever a whisky to tempt somebody over the smoke side, this could be it.

To find out more about the new London Luton airport store and the handy click-and-collect service it offers travellers, log on to: www.aeliadutyfree.co.uk.


BEST BUY
Maker's Mark

Cask Strength

Maker's Mark has never been a distillery to flood the market with new releases so this cask strength expression, which was first released in the US in 2014, is a welcome sight in duty free. Bottled at 53% to 56% ABV, this whiskey doesn't overpower and could be sipped neat, as well as being mixed in a cocktail.

On the nose Maker's Mark Cask Strength delivers lots of rich oak with some smoky charcoal notes, while the palate oozes spice and vanilla. The finish is long and smooth. The addition of a little water dials up the spice considerably.

Maker's Mark Cask Strength went on sale exclusively at Singapore Changi in July this month, but availability will widen to include other key international hub airports in the months that follow.


RECOMMENDED
Tomatin

12 Years Old

Tomatin has had a minimal presence in duty free over the years, but that's about to change as the distillery has just released a new four strong range which includes an 8 Years Old, a 12 Years Old, a 15 Years Old and a prestige 40 Years Old, coming in at €1,200 £1,005).

The company has a three year plan, aiming to widen out its distribution to Europe, the USA and Asia in years one, two and three respectively.

My pick of the range is the 12 Years Old, which has been matured in a mix of American Bourbon and Spanish sherry casks. The new whisky is described as having a rich, fruity aroma with sweet flavours of ripe apples and pears and possessing a long, pleasantly oily finish.

Expect to pay around €42 (£35.20) for a 1 litre bottle of Tomatin 12 Years Old.
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