It's been a long time coming, but it's almost here. The US is to have its first dedicated airport Bourbon and American whiskey shop and the location couldn't be more fitting - Blue Grass airport in Kentucky, the state where, of course, 95 per cent of the Bourbon is made in the country.
The new Cork & Barrel store will open in April this year and will likely sell up to 300 different Bourbons, US whiskeys, spirits, wines, craft beers and Bourbon related gifts and accessories. The design of the shop will be based on old Kentucky barrel house, while the outside will feature a barrel rick made from wood sourced from an old Bourbon distillery. It will hold as many as 30 Bourbon barrels.
In a business increasingly dominated by multinational retailers, it's refreshing to see that a local firm has been given the opportunity to run the store. Husband and wife team Jim and Bev Taylor run the Cork & Barrel Wine & Bourbon Bar Retail Shop in downtown Lexington, Kentucky's second largest city, and are now poised to enter the world of Travel Retail.
Jim says, "My wife and I both made drastic changes about eight years ago to open our wine and Bourbon store and bar. It's been greatly rewarding, but we had absolutely no desire whatsoever to open another location. However, when Blue Grass airport presented this really amazing opportunity, we felt it was something we couldn't pass up."
The in-store selection will major on what Jim calls 'barrel picks'- exclusive single barrel Bourbons from specific distilleries which can't be bought elsewhere. An eight-year-old barrel from Buffalo Trace is one of the first confirmed picks along with two barrels from Woodford Reserve.
"Right now we're tasting additional barrels at Buffalo Trace and have scheduled appointments over the next few months with Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Four Roses, Knob Creek, Hartfield & Company and Boone County Distillers," Jim adds. "Needless to say, as word of this is moving through the industry, we're getting calls from many other distilleries and we're in conversation with them now."
While not available every day, tasting promotions will be held around key events. "We will likely offer tastings at certain times such as when a distillery has released a new Bourbon to the market, during peak travel times, and at other special events such as the Kentucky Derby and the [horse] racing season at Keeneland," Jim explains.
There is more Bourbon news to report from Louisville International, Kentucky's largest airport. A new library-themed Bourbon bar and restaurant called Booker & Bourbon Southern Kitchen has opened there offering thirsty travellers 85 Bourbons, as well as local fare like fried green tomato benedict, pecan pie and short rib hush puppies.
The new HMS Host-run bar is located in the airport's main terminal and is part of a $17m (£13.7m) makeover of the airport.
The craft cocktail menu includes tempting classics such as a $15 (£12) Sazerac Rye (using Knob Creek Rye), a $15 Old Fashioned (using Buffalo Trace), a $13 (£9.70) Mint Julep (using the spicy Maker's Mark 46), as well as the intriguingly fruity and spicy $15 Angels & Demons, which contains Angel's Envy Bourbon, Combier triple sec, Aperol, sugar syrup, Habanero Shrub chilli cocktail bitter and lemon peel.
In the same location is the new Bourbon Academy Tasting Room where travellers can order tasting flights on iPads on which they can also read up on details of each distillery and tasting notes. There are over 100 different whiskeys to try, including rare and allocated Bourbons such as the highly rated Rockhill Farms Small Batch at $14 (£11.30), the award-winning Elmer T Lee Single Barrel at $16 (£13) and four different expressions of Pappy Van Winkle, ranging from the 12 Years Old at $28 (£22.65) right up to the 23 Years Old at $85 (£68.75).
In summary, Bourbon lovers heading to Kentucky via Louisville airport could do worse than give Booker & Bourbon Southern Kitchen a try. It's open 6am to midnight daily.
As the 'Four Oak' name suggests, this new Travel Retail exclusive whisky from Laphroaig is aged in four different cask types. They are ex-Bourbon barrels, quarter casks, virgin American oak barrels and lastly European oak hogsheads. This quartet of cask types creates a complex whisky which is bright golden in colour and offers up peat smoke, dried fruit and vanilla aromas on the nose. The palate delivers hints of sandalwood, pine and seaweed along with salted liquorice and smooth buttercream. The powerful finish is salty and smoky. It's worth noting that Laphroaig Four Oak is one of two new Travel Retail exclusives to be launched by Laphroaig this year. The other release is Laphroaig The 1815 Edition, which is matured in first-fill, ex-Bourbon barrels before further ageing in new European oak hogsheads.
Danica Peated Whisky
It's always pleasing to see world whiskies finally breakthrough the thick wooden door that too often closes off the expensive world of Travel Retail to many newly established distilleries. One such example is the Danish Braunstein Distillery (and brewery), established in 2005 and located to the south of Copenhagen, and run by two enterprising brothers. Braunstein's whiskies have caught the eye of retailer Heinemann, which runs the Travel Retail stores at nearby Copenhagen airport. This 42% ABV no age statement peated expression from Braunstein, Danica Peated, is a gentle, fruity whisky with rich notes of vanilla, caramel and chocolate. It comes in a 50cl bottle and is priced at Copenhagen airport at DKK 469 (£54.40).