Asia is hogging the attention of the duty-free industry to such an extent these days that many new whiskies are now routinely being launched there first before anywhere else. With that in mind I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the new whiskies that were unveiled at the recent TFWA Asia Pacific exhibition in Singapore.
Before we get on to that, however, I wanted to mention one of Richard Branson's latest crazy ideas. Granted, launching a limited-edition whisky to mark the start of a new airline isn't as out there as Branson's plans found a space tourism agency, but giving away all 200 bottles to passengers on the first flight from London to Edinburgh was a little nuts. The whisky in question was Dewar's House 17 Years Old. It came in a 50cl bottle signed by master blender Stephanie Macleod and featured a clever label mocked up to look like a baggage ticket from the inaugural flight.
Anyway, let's move on to those Singapore-launched whiskies: drams, which travelling punters can actually buy, and which won't cost customers a small fortune. Old Pulteney unveiled a new trio of modestly priced travel-retail exclusive whiskies, which are named after three lighthouses located near the brand's remote Wick-based distillery.
What Asian travellers will make of obscure names such as Noss Head (£39.99), Duncansby Head (£44.99) or Pentland Skerries (£54.99) is a moot point, but given the fine pedigree of previous Old Pulteney releases, demand for these whiskies is likely to be high.
Highland Park is launching so many great travel-retail exclusive whiskies these days that it is sometimes difficult to keep up. At Singapore they were at it again, launching (and 'launching' is very much the right word) Highland Park Loki, which comes in wooden frame shaped like a Viking long ship. Named after the Norse god who was always battling his more famous brother Thor, Loki is a 48.7% ABV, 15 Years Old whisky more peaty in flavour than many Highland Park whiskies.
If Highland Park is obsessed about its Norse heritage, recent travel-retail exclusive Glenfiddich releases have drawn on epic past voyages for their inspiration. Thus at Singapore we had the appearance of Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Red Wine Cask Finish, which takes Darwin's 19th century journey to the Americas.
Fittingly, the oak casks used to finish this 19 Years Old whisky, which will be available globally priced at about £75 per bottle, were previously used to produce South American wines.
Last but not least, this wouldn't be Asian duty-free if I didn't mention at least one ultra-premium launch. I did hear a Famous Grouse 40 Years Old was unveiled at the show. At the time of writing details, photos and samples weren't available.
Royal Burgh Collection
Although it has been concentrating more on Aberfeldy in recent years Bacardi-owned Dewar's & Sons Ltd has been late to the single-malt party. It appears the company is keen to make up for lost time with the launch of the travel-retail exclusive Glen Deveron Royal Burgh Collection.
Produced at the Macduff Distillery, Scotland's most north-easterly distillery, the Glen Deveron Collection comprises three references: a 16, 20 Years Old, and 30 Years Old. Prices range from £40.99 for the 1-litre16 Year Old, to £150 for the 70cl 30 Year Old.
The Collection will initially be available exclusively from World Duty Free stores at UK and Spain airports.
Triple Cask Collection
Travel-retail exclusive collections are all the rage right now and The Balvenie has got into the action in a big way with the launch of The Balvenie Triple Cask Collection.
The new 40% ABV Collection consists of three very different whiskies each matured in three different types of cask: first-fill bourbon, refill bourbon and Spanish sherry. The 12 Years Old is sweet and spicy; the 16 Years Old is full of polished wood and cinnamon, and the 25 Years Old is deep and complex.
The Balvenie Triple Cask Collection made its debut in March with World Duty Free at Edinburgh airport, but will gain a wider travel-retail roll out later in the year.