Freezing fog and jet planes aren’t a good mix. I should know. I recently spent a cramped two hours in economy class waiting to take off from a frost-covered Heathrow while our wings and engines were thoroughly de-iced. Airports that rarely see snow occasionally run out of de-icer when freakish weather strikes. Exactly that happened at Alicante airport recently, but one frustrated SAS pilot wasn’t going to wait for Spanish airport staff to nip down to the hardware store.
Faced with a planeload of irate passengers eager to get home, the quick-thinking captain raided the onboard duty-free trolley and proceeded to pour three bottles of whisky over the wings. Press reports about the incident failed to recount what type of whisky was sacrificed to get the plane airborne, but apparently it worked. It just goes to prove what a versatile product whisky is.
Whisky can also change lives for the better. Consider bottle No.7 of the Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve, one of just 11 bottles of this rare 55 Years Old whisky released last year to celebrate the remarkable life of Janet Roberts. The granddaughter of William Grant himself, Janet lived to the grand old age of 110 and before her death in 2011 was Scotland’s oldest woman.
World Duty Free Group bought this rare dram at a charity auction last year for a whopping £42,000. The money went to the Lotus Flower Trust, which sets up orphanages and schools for disabled children in poor rural areas of India.
The story doesn’t end there, however, as I recently flew up to Edinburgh airport to see the whisky take pride of place in the airport’s main departures shop priced at a cool £50,000.
Gail, the store manager, was understandably chuffed her Edinburgh airport shop had got this dram over any of the Heathrow terminal stores. She also assured me a couple of whisky collectors, who regularly spend big money at the shop, had already expressed interest in adding Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve to their collection. Should either of them do so World Duty Free’s total charitable donation will rise to £70,000.
Glenfiddich’s new malt master Brian Kinsman was also at the airport to let me taste a handsome new bottling released exclusively in travel-retail to mark the 125th anniversary of the distillery.
Priced at an accessible £70, this new release is a real gem. Yet it is rather different in style to the light, fruity whiskies that Glenfiddich has become famous for.
Kinsman has tried to recapture the type of whiskies made in Speyside back in William Grant’s era when burning peat was the only way to dry out the malted barley. The resulting whisky has a rich, subtly smoky character alongside the familiar vanilla and fruity notes.
It’s well worth picking up if you are flying.
Those who start salivating at the word ‘peat’ should really grab themselves a bottle of this wonderful travel-retail exclusive. Ardbeg Uigeadail is not just a peat monster though. The judicious use of sherry butt matured whiskies gives this dram a pleasing, counter-balancing dose of sweetness. Bottled at cask strength (54.2% ABV), Ardbeg Uigeadail would go very well with a fine cigar or indeed, a plate of smoked salmon. Pick up a bottle at any World of Whiskies outlet priced at £46.99.
17 Years Old, Scapa Edition
The second release in the rather successful Ballantine’s 17 Years Old Signature Distillery Series focuses on Orkney’s less well-known distillery, Scapa. Perched over the vast Scapa Flow this distillery produces light, fruity unpeated whiskies and much of what is produced now goes into the Ballantine’s blend.
The Scapa Edition has plenty of vanilla and tropical fruit flavours on the nose, which gives way to a smooth creamy taste on the palate, and a long, lingering finish. As for the pack, it features a wispy line drawing of the distillery and the Orkney coastline. This whisky will be in Asian duty-free stores and onboard selected airlines.