Travel Retail

Craft spirits take off

Distilled craft spirits are making a mark in regional airports
By Joe Bates
The craft spirits revolution that has taken the US by storm during the past decade is finally having an impact on the shopping at the country’s many airports. Craft brews have been available at US airport bars and restaurants for many years, but it’s taken a long time for locally distilled craft spirits to feature in airport shops’ spirits assortments, which are still dominated by multinational-owned brands.

There are signs of a change, however, and it’s the smaller, regional airports that are leading the charge. Consider, the example of South Carolina’s Greenville-Spartenburg international airport, for instance, which handles around two million passengers a year; flies to 15 major city destinations, and is undergoing a $125 million renovation programme.

As part of that revamp, an award-winning, local micro-distiller Palmetto Distillery, famous for producing a range of legal moonshines, has just opened a store at the airport. Two brothers, Trey and Bryan Boggs, set up Palmetto Distillery to produce South Carolina’s first legal moonshine, using recipes and production methods used by their family in the bootlegging days of the early 1900s.

In pride of place in the new store is Palmetto Whiskey, which is made with a mash bill that is 21 per cent rye, corn, wheat and malted barley and is typical of whiskeys available in South Carolina in the early 20th Century. Distilled in new French oak barrels for two years and bottled at 44.65% ABV, Palmetto Whiskey is amber in colour, and offers lots of vanilla and caramel on the nose and palate, along with some liquorice and a hint of smoke.

The packaging of Palmetto Whiskey is distinctive. It comes in a weighty clear bottle which is a replica of bottles that the South Carolina Dispensary, a local liquor monopoly, distributed for 20 years when the state-controlled alcohol distribution. The bottles come in a blue gift bag secured with a gold-woven drawstring.

The new Palmetto Distillery store also stocks a range of flavoured moonshines in traditional mason jars. Flavours include Apple Pie, Strawberry, Blackberry and Peach. Other items sold include branded clothing for men and women, cocktail mixes, pickles, hot sauces, jams and BBQ sauces.

Another craft distillery to successfully set up shop at the airport is Portland’s House of Spirits Distillery, which produces everything from gin, rum and vodka, to aquavit and a refined, complex, yet youthful single-malt whiskey (Westward Single Malt American Whisky). In 2016, the distillery opened a store and tasting room at the local Portland International airport (Terminal C). Travellers can sample ‘flights’ of the distillery’s spirits and buy bottles to take home.

One other US airport store to get a positive mention this time around is Las Vegas McCarran’s Liquor Library, which claims to be the country’s only airport liquor arrivals shop. Located in Terminal 1 baggage claim area, this store’s prices are duty-paid, but are aimed at tourists arriving for their holiday so are competitive compared to liquor outlets on the Strip. The shop stages daily tastings, just the thing to get travellers into the holiday spirit for their Las Vegas adventure begins!


BEST BUY
The Singleton of Glendullan

40 Years Old

This latest travel-retail release from The Singleton is aimed squarely at Asian whisky collectors. The Singleton of Glendullan 40 Years Old is the first release in the Speyside distillery’s new Forgotten Drop Series and was drawn from rare stocks discovered by Maureen Robinson, The Singleton’s master of malts.

The distillery is notable for its slow distillation and for being the last to be built in Dufftown in the 19th century. Aged in re-fill American oak casks and bottled at a cask-strength of 58.6% ABV, this sweet, spicy whisky is full of honeyed tones, ginger, and oak flavours. The whisky can only be purchased at duty-free stores at Taiwan’s Taoyuan and Singapore Changi airports.


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Glen Scotia

16 Years Old

Glen Scotia is just one of three surviving whisky distilleries in Campbeltown, one of Scotch whisky’s five whisky-producing regions. Back in Queen Victoria’s time, the thriving port of Campbeltown was fêted as the ‘whisky capital of the world’, boasting 30 distilleries.

Those glory days are long past sadly, but it’s good to see that World Duty Free’s World of Whiskies airport shops have teamed up with Loch Lomond Group to stock two Campbeltown whiskies: the balanced, peaty Glen Scotia 1832 Campbeltown, and the Glen Scotia 16 Years Old, which delivers lots of Campbeltown character with hints of vanilla oak and spicy aromatic fruits.
The Palmetto Distillery store
The Palmetto Distillery store
The Singleton of Glendullan, 40 Years Old
The Singleton of Glendullan, 40 Years Old
Glen Scotia, 16 Years Old
Glen Scotia, 16 Years Old