Travel Retail

Forget the headlines

Joe Bates braves the crowds and keeps an eye on his bags as he checks out the offerings at Heathrow's flagship terminal
By Joe Bates
An auspicious opening it certainly wasn’t. Seething passengers, hundreds of flights cancelled and up to 20,000 bags lost from a state-of-the-art, computer-controlled luggage system in total meltdown.Yes folks, the first few days of BAA (British Airport Authorities) and British Airway’s much-trumpeted £4.3bn Heathrow Terminal 5 could have gone slightly better.

A month on from all that March madness, however, and the gleaming, Norman Foster-designed terminal is operating something like it was intended to,(although British Airways has yet to transfer its long-haul flights). Reasonably confident that they (and their bags) will reach their final destinations, passengers can now relax and explore the terminal’s top-notch shops and restaurants, which boast the likes of Tiffany, Kurt Geiger, Paul Smith, Gordon Ramsay and Chanel.

What floats our boat, of course, is the whisky selection.To locate it, travellers have to descend a double escalator from the check-in area to the main shopping mall. Directly to the left, you will see World Duty Free’s (WDF) brightly lit, 6,500 square feet liquor and tobacco shop.

It’s dominated by two bars at either end of the shop, the larger of which, elliptical in shape and overhung by a multi-coloured chandelier, veers into style-bar territory.

Called “Bar 5”, it is billed as the first paying bar in a duty-free shop anywhere in the world, and is co-funded by British drinks giant Diageo. Staffed by trained mixologists, the cocktail list features aptly named creations such as Clear Skies, Zero Turbulence, Final Call and Green Light. As you might expect, white spirits tend to dominate, but as this is primarily a Diageo bar, you should hope that the bar staff can rustle up a good Whisky Sour or Rob Roy too.

As for The Connoisseur Bar, which sits at the other end of the shop, this is exclusively dedicated to single malt whisky and high-end Cognac. A team of experts is on hand to give customers one-to-one tasting sessions. According to shop owner WDF, the emphasis is on tailoring a whisky to each shopper’s particular requirements and personal tastes.

If this seems like a lot of trouble to go to to sell a bottle of whisky, all becomes clear when you see some of the exclusive bottlings WDF is trying to sell at T5.

Head over to the main duty-free shop opposite and you will find no fewer than seven exclusive expressions in the new World of Whiskies shop-in-shop, which nestles in between the fragrances and the chocolate.

Arguably the most exciting of these new releases is Hazelwood Reserve 17 Years Old – the first commercial bottling from William Grant’s tiny Kininvie distillery, which has previously been used for blends, most notably Monkey Shoulder. Priced at £350, only 500 bottles have been made available.

William Grant & Son has also contributed two other exclusive drams for T5: Glenfiddich Private Vintage 1973 at £1,000 and The Balvenie Private Vintage 40 Years Old Cask No.9915 at £3,500.

The Edrington Group has stepped up to the plate with a Highland Park 1975 (£350), and Morrison Bowmore has pulled out all the stops with the highly collectable Bowmore 1965 42 Years Old, which retails at an eye-watering £6,000 per bottle (only 55 bottles are up for grabs).

In fact, the single cask Bowmore 1965 is one of the most expensive commercial bottlings ever released by the company, and was personally chosen by the WDF buying team.

Taken from a 1965, first-fill hogshead barrel, the 43.5% ABV whisky is described as being very different from the overtly smoky taste associated with the famous Islay brand, boasting distinctly exotic fruit notes and a
floral aroma.

If you prefer a more traditional Islay whisky, however, try hunting down one of the 750 bottles of Laphroaig 21 Years Old Cask Strength reserved for T5 at £350 each. A rare Glenlivet 1968 40 Years Old is also promised, and is expected on the shelves any time now at the earliest. Pricing details aren’t available yet for this one, but rest assured, it will be expensive.

Visit WDF’s well designed and regularly updated website, www.worldutyfree.com, before you travel.

Check to see if any new special or exclusive drams have been added to the assortment; you’ll also find a handy guide to Customs allowances worldwide.


Best Buy
Bulleit

Bourbon

After growing success in the US domestic market Diageo has decided it is time for Bulleit bourbon to make its debut in America's duty-free.

About time, we say. This famously smooth, 45% ABV small batch bourbon with its quirky, medicine-style bottle deserves to be enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible. Originating from a family recipe created by Augustus Bulleit in New Orleans in the early 19th century, it is made from a blend of corn, malt and rye.

The high proportion of ry creates a distinctive dry, smooth taste with hints of vanilla.


RECOMMENDED
Glenfarclas

1952

Presenting the oldest of five new vintage malt whiskies from J&G Grant.

Glenfarclas 1952 was filled on Boxing Day 1952 – the year that George V died, Helsinki hosted the Olympics and Hemmingway wrote The Old Man and The Sea.

After such a long time sleeping in Cask Number 1710, the angels didn't leave much (just 55 bottles to be precise). Light in colour, this dram is described as thick, heavy whisky with hints of malty sweetness and a long, lingering finish.

Bottles have been reserved specially for the Danish and Norwegian duty-free and travel-retail markets.

Expect to pay about £1,500 for a bottle.