This year’s TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes celebrated the 70th anniversary of duty-free shopping. The week-long event was a real treat for whisky lovers with numerous launches from distillers big and small. In recent years, most new travel retail exclusive whisky launches showcased in Cannes have tended to be non-age statement exclusives, a reflection of just how scarce older juice was becoming in the industry. However, this year saw a notable return to age statements by some companies. As one malts ambassador memorably put it – “There’s still a place for a number on the front of a bottle.”
At the luxury end of the market, for instance, Loch Lomond Distillery unveiled Loch Lomond 50 Years Old, the oldest whisky ever released by the Dunbartonshire-based distillery. Priced at £12,000, Loch Lomond Distillery is drawn from a single cask first distilled in 1967, matured first in an American Oak hogshead and then in a European Oak hogshead. The result is a 46.2% ABV whisky full of rich oak spice and tropical fruit presented in a handblown crystal decanter and a bespoke leather-lined oak chest. Just 60 decanters have been released.
International Beverage also unveiled two new age statement travel retail exclusive Old Pulteney expressions at the show. The first, Old Pulteney 1990 Vintage, was matured in ex-Bourbon American Oak and ex-Spanish sherry casks before a finish in heavily peated casks to create a complex, multi-layered dram. Priced at around £280 for a 70cl bottle, the 1990 Vintage will be an exclusive at World Duty Free stores at London Heathrow from October to December.
The second travel-retail exclusive Old Pulteney release launched down in Cannes was Old Pulteney 2006. It is matured in ex-Bourbon casks, presented in a 1-litre bottle and priced at around £50.
Bacardi Global Travel Retail has also been banging the drum for age statements, releasing a new high-end Dewar’s blended whisky at the show, which has been finished in freshly disgorged Royal Brackla casks. Dewar’s 25 Years Old replaces Dewar’s Signature as the new top-of-the-ladder Dewar’s whisky. Master blender Stephanie Macleod describes it as, “endlessly smooth, rich and elegant” with “layers of rich fruit, floral notes and delicate honey, with a hint of smoke to finish”. Bottled at 40% ABV, Dewar’s 25 Years will be released into duty-free first before a wider roll out into domestic markets. It has a price of around $225 (£170).
Not every whisky distiller is willing to change course from the non-age statement approach. For instance, The Macallan took journalists to the opulent surroundings of the Villa Saint-Georges in the exclusive Cannes suburb of La Californie during the show to unveil what is claimed was its biggest duty-free launch in a decade. The Macallan master distiller Nick Savage was on hand himself to talk about the new non age statement range.
The new Macallan Quest range is inspired by The Macallan’s commitment to sourcing quality oak casks. The collection features four new expressions with their own unique cask finishes, the entry-level The Macallan Quest is aged in four cask types: sherry seasoned European and American Oak casks and American ex-Bourbon and hogshead casks, while The Macallan Lumina is matured in three types: European and American sherry casks and hogshead casks.
Moving up the range, The Macallan Terra is the third expression in the range, aged exclusively in first-fill sherry casks sourced from two distinguished wood suppliers from Jerez. The resulting 43.8% ABV whisky has plenty of toffee notes on the palate with dried fruit and rich woody spice. The pinnacle of the range is the $250 (£190) The Macallan Enigma, matured only in European Oak Spanish sherry casks. It delivers orchard fruits, vanilla and sweet spice on the nose and dried fruit, sweet vanilla and spice on the palate.
The Macallan Quest collection should be available in duty-free stores from January 2018. It replaces the long-standing The Macallan 1824 Collection and is set to be the core duty-free The Macallan range from now on. Will the lack of age statements hurt this new Macallan range? Given this whisky’s phenomenal popularity, not one bit is my guess! BEST BUY
The Glenfiddich Cask Collection Finest Solera
This new luxury £1,950 release from Glenfiddich is the latest in a series of rare whisky expressions created in collaboration with French crystal decanter manufacturer Baccarat.
For Glenfiddich Cask Collection Finest Solera, malt master Brian Kinsman selected up to 20 rare casks, which had been maturing in American and European Oak. These were then married together for two months in the distillery’s 2,000-litre tun, which is never less than half full and is constantly being replenished as part of a solera-style ageing process. Bottled at 48% ABV, the whisky delivers lots of rich vanilla, fruit and toffee.
The Baccarat decanter features a copper neck collar and stopper, and a hand-engraved Glenfiddich wording and stag emblem plaque.RECOMMENDED
The Paps 19 Years Old
On a fine day, the imposing Paps of Jura can be seen as far away as Skye and even Northern Ireland. These striking geographical features, named in Norse after their breast-like appearance, are the inspiration for a new Isle of Jura travel-retail exclusive whisky, the most expensive expression in a new four-strong, Jura sherry cask collection unveiled in Cannes.
The Paps 19 Years Old is matured in American ex-Bourbon barrels and finished in hand-selected sherry casks, which previously held 40 year-old Pedro Ximénez. Unsurprisingly, the resulting 45.6% ABV whisky has a deep mahogany colour. It proffers ginger cake and sweet vanilla aromas and nuts, sweet pear and more vanilla flavours on the palate. Available in a 70cl bottle, expect to pay around £85 for a bottle of The Paps 19 Years Old.
Discovering The Macallan Quest range
The Glenfiddich Cask Collection
Jura, The Paps 19 Years Old