The most high profile duty-free store opening of 2010 so far has undoubtedly been Down Under at Sydney International airport. A giant 4,000 square metre store – claimed by the retailer The Nuance Group to be the largest airport shop in the southern hemisphere – opened its doors there in February.
The SYD Tax and Duty Free shop boasts a great range of Aussie and Kiwi wines, a superb selection of fragrances and gourmet of chocolates, and even an area selling merchandise related to one of Australia’s most successful recent exports, The Wiggles, a relentlessly chirpy rock band aimed at pre-schoolers.
The World of Whisky area, which unusually is laid out by taste profile rather than by region, doesn’t disappoint either. There is plenty to interest the serious collector with rare whiskies such as Glenfiddich 40 Years Old at A$2,499 (£1,518), The Macallan 1824 Decanter at A$2,199 (£1,355.50) and The Glenlivet 1964 at A$2,299 (£1,400).
Islay whisky enthusiasts should seek out the excellent Laphroaig 25 Years Old (A$349/£212) or Ardbeg Uigeadail (A$149/£90.50), the latter being a beautifully sweet and smoky dram matured in bourbon barrels and sherry butts. Much lighter in style, but nicely sweet and floral is the handsomely packaged Longmorn 16 Years Old priced at A$99 (£60).
Sydney gets its fair share of Asian tourists and business travellers so the new store has a generous selection of super-premium and ultra-premium blends, most notably the duty-free exclusive The John Walker, priced at an eye-watering A$3,999 (£2,430). Less pricey examples in this sub-category include Royal Salute 38 Years Old A$599 (£364), Ballantine’s 30 Years Old A$420 (£250) and Chivas Regal 25 Years Old (A$349/£212).
Australians love their bourbon so perhaps it is no surprise that the store carries a better-than-average selection. Market leader Jim Beam is well represented, but you will also find Slate bourbon (A$29.99/£18.20), Maker’s Mark (A$33.99/£20.65) and the recently released Wild Turkey 14 Years Old (A$89.99/£54.65), which is bottled at 50.5% ABV and very complex and powerful (only 30,000 bottles were released worldwide).
For a full rundown check out the shop’s excellent website, www.syddutyfree.com.
Highland Park’s presence in duty-free has grown rapidly in recent years. In fact, duty-free sales of the Orcadian whisky have grown a whopping 88 per cent since 2005.
One of the reasons behind the brand’s success is that owner Edrington has realised the important role of duty-free exclusives in offering travelling customers something different. To that end, the company has just brought out no fewer than four duty-free exclusive Vintage Editions distilled in 1998, 1994, 1990 and 1973.
My pick of the bunch is Highland Park 1973 Vintage, bottled at 50.6% abv and priced at about €750 (£671). The whisky’s nose reveals vanilla and toffee sweetness. These flavours are then picked up again on the palate.
The next time you are passing through Switzerland’s Zürich airport why not consider picking up a bottle of the country’s best-known whisky brand, Swhisky?
It will make a far more original gift than Swiss cheese, wine or chocolate.
Produced in the Valais region of Switzerland by whisky aficionado Alex Delaloye since 2001, Swhisky is made with quality ingredients in much the same way as Scotch whisky. Matured in Burgundy casks, Swhisky Challenge is priced at CHF79.90 (£55.60) for a 70cl bottle at the airport’s main duty-free store.