I have often said in this column that standards of customer service in duty-free shops are generally on the way up. Unfortunately, I was made to eat my words on a recent trip through Terminal A of Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport, where a 1,100sq m Duty Free and Travel Value shop has recently opened.
It was nine o’clock on a Thursday morning, but the liquor area of the store was unsupervised.There were only a few customers in the shop at the time, yet no one came over to ask me if I needed any help for the full 15 minutes I was there. I suspect quite a few potential sales were lost that morning.
It is a shame because the new walk-through store with its bright lighting and clean, modern layout is really rather good.The whisky selection was solid enough too. Well-heeled travellers could choose from a high-end offer that included Chivas Royal Salute Hundred Cask Selection at €170/£160.70, Johnnie Walker Blue Label at €140/£132.33 and the new Glenmorangie Signet at €150/£141.80.
For those with shallower pockets there were plenty of mid-range malts to choose from such as The Glenlivet 18 Years Old (€55/£51.18), Laphroaig Quarter Cask (€46/£43.50),The Macallan 1851 Inspiration (€79/£74.70) and Balblair 1990 (€60/£56.70).
Two Glenmorangie whiskies were on promotion on our visit—Glenmorangie The Original 10 Years Old (€28.90/£27.30), and one of the brand’s better wood finishes, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Port Wood Finish at €37.90 (£35.80).
There are imminent plans to expand this low-cost airline hub –a much larger airport, Berlin-Brandenburg, is to be built on the Schoenefeld site by 2011, which will become the German capital’s only airport. Let’s hope customer service improves by then.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon
This great bourbon is finally being launched into US duty-free. It’s a cracker of a bourbon, which has won praise from all the great whisky writers, and picked up numerous awards. Entirely produced on a site with an outstanding history of distilling bourbons and bottled by hand, every drop of Buffalo Trace is aged nine years.
The nose gives up plenty of vanilla, molasses and rich dried fruits, while the wonderfully sweet palate is all vanilla cream.
At only $22 (£15.40), the price of Buffalo Trace is pretty compelling too.
16 Years Old
When it comes to Orcadian malt whiskies Scapa is often overlooked in favour of its bigger, better-known rival, the fêted Highland Park.
Scapa, perched romantically above the vast expanse of Scapa Flow, has produced some excellent whiskies, however, that are well worth trying if you can find them. Being unpeated, they tend to be light, sweet and pleasingly smooth in character.
The 16 Years Old expression is particularly satisfying, honey gold in colour with butterscotch notes on the nose, plenty of honey and heather on the palate, and a rich, full finish.
Scapa 16 Years Old is currently available at World Duty Free’s UK airport shops priced at £40.99.