The latest fad among duty-free retailers is to try and give their new stores a sense of place. It is an understandable reaction given the increasing complaint made by frequent travellers that international airports and their facilities are bland, homogenous places with little local colour or flavour.
German travel retailer Gebr Heinemann passes the local flavour test with flying colours at its new flagship store at Frankfurt airport (transit area Terminal 1). At this giant 900 square metre shop you can find a eye-catching Made in Germany area sculpted out of where, where Mosel wines and Lübeck marzipan share shelf space with apples wines and frankfurters.
Heinemann is pulling out all the stops to try and tempt customers –innovations include a gift-wrapping service, an online pre-order facility and a special area for promotions and new launches.
Not a bad place to pick up a bottle of whisky then if you happen to be passing through. The store’s selection is a wide range of low to mid-priced malt brands with a few duty-free exclusive expressions such as the gloriously rich Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX (€89) and the elegant Glenrothes Robur Reserve (€58) thrown in for good measure.
There are some high-end blends for sale – take your pick from the likes of Ballantine’s 30 Years Old (€260), Chivas Royal Salute 38 Years Old (€395) and Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V (also €395).
Japanese whisky continues to make inroads into European duty-free, you will find three Yamazaki expressions at Frankfurt: 10 Years Old, 12 Years Old and 18 Years Old, priced at €29.90, €48.50 and
The usual suspects make an appearance when it comes to Irish whiskey and bourbon (Jameson, Bushmills, Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam). Hopefully, one day a duty-free retailer will have the courage to offer a few less obvious choices in these thriving sub-categories.
The Edrington Group got in there first back in 2007 with the launch of The Black Grouse. Now Diageo are cashing in on the increasing popularity of peaty West Coast whiskies with Johnnie Walker Double Black.
It does what it says on the tin, but the smokiness on the nose and palate is not overpowering.
We are not talking about a peat monster – there is a pleasing creaminess and honeyed sweetness to the finished whisky, which reminds you that Double Black is a blend, where balance remains supremely important.
Ultimately, then Double Black is not a massive departure in style from its famous predecessor, which has always been prized for its smoky quality, and is none the worse for that. Unlike Black Label, however, Double Black does not bear an age statement.
It is being launched on a test basis at six international airports, Sydney, Beirut, New York JFK, Singapore and Dubai, for a five-month trial from February.
There are no immediate plans to release it in the domestic market at the moment.
World Duty Free (WDF) and its chain of World of Whiskies airport outlets have got their hands on yet another exclusive offering. Happily, this latest release from Old Pulteney is rather more affordable than recent launches.
Priced at £32.99 for a 1-litre bottle, Old Pulteney WK499 Isabella Fortuna takes its name from the last remaining drifter fishing boat moored at the port of Wick, where the Old Pulteney distillery is based.
On the nose there is plenty of light brown sugar and coconut vying with citrus notes. Vanilla and warm spice comes through on the palate, while the finish is satisfyingly long.
Find Old Pulteney WK499 at any one of WDF’s eight UK World of Whiskies outlets at Heathrow Terminals 1, 4 and 5, Gatwick North and South, Stansted, Edinburgh and Glasgow.