Price-off promotions and discounts are part and parcel of the global duty-free business. Yet the industry sees nothing quite like the scale of Dubai Duty Free’s three-day anniversary pre-Christmas sale each December. The promotion generated staggering sales of $54m (£42.6m) in 2017, so perhaps it’s not surprising that luxury goods suppliers are starting to develop exclusive products to sell for the big event.
For the UAE airport retailer’s 35th anniversary celebrations from the 17-20 December 2018, a 25 per cent discount was applied to a wide range of goods and The Glenlivet produced a rare exclusive bottling to mark the occasion. The Glenlivet 35 Years Old Dubai Duty Free Exclusive was hand selected by master distiller Alan Winchester, who personally attended a VIP six-course dinner at Dubai’s One&Only Royal Mirage Dubai hotel to celebrate the whisky’s launch.
Presented in a hand-crafted wooden box marked ‘Dubai Duty Free Exclusive’, this rare whisky offers peach, sweet pear and strawberry jam notes on the nose. On the palate, there is tropical kiwi fruit, melon and a hint of sweet cinnamon spice. The finish is sweet and long lasting with a touch of spice. Quantities are fittingly limited to just 35 bottles, priced at $10,000 (£7,900) each.
Meanwhile, at London Heathrow airport, World Duty Free (WDF) has just taken stock of a rare Bowmore bottling courtesy of Beam Suntory. Bowmore 1997 is a 20-years-old malt matured in a single cask in the Islay distillery’s famous No. 1 Vault, which is claimed to be the oldest maturation warehouse in the world. Only 198 bottles have been released, priced in WDF’s Heathrow stores at £295 each.
The nose of Bowmore 1997 offers rich notes of malty biscuit and buttery toffee. The palate presents flavours of sweet peat, burnt wood and a dash of lemon zest. The finish is sweet and smoky, with long-lasting herbal and floral notes.
From windswept Islay, we take the long journey across the pond to Kentucky where Maker’s Mark, another Beam Suntory-owned brand, has built on its growing duty-free sales by releasing its first duty-free exclusive. Maker’s Mark 101 is a higher-strength expression, which was previously only available for visitors to the whiskey’s Loretto distillery. This release doesn’t lose the smoothness of standard Maker’s, but packs a bolder, spicier nose and a richer, creamier and more fruity palate.
Gebr. Heinemann shops at Hungary’s Budapest and Sydney airports were chosen as the two initial launch pads for Maker’s Mark 101 in December last year. Travellers got the chance to taste the new whiskey, learn more about the distillery and see bottles being wax-dipped live in-store. At Sydney airport, Maker’s Mark 101 is priced at A$65 (£37) for a 1-litre bottle and will be more widely available in travel retail in 2019.
Returning to the States, Kentucky spirits retailer Cork ‘N’ Bottle has opened a new satellite store in Concourse A of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) international airport. It’s a small kiosk-style outlet, but it still stocks a good range of Bourbons, spirits, beers, wines and delicatessen-style foods. Around 85 per cent of the product mix is dedicated to Bourbon and besides the big brands, there is
a good selection of allocated names such as Blanton’s, Weller and Elmer T. Lee. There is also a rotating range of so-called “dusties”, in other words, old, collectible expressions.
If this retail site is successful, Cork ‘N’ Bottle is hopeful of opening a larger shop at the airport. The satellite store is affiliated to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and is already doing good business since opening last year. Considered along with the Cork & Barrel Bourbon shop, which opened at Kentucky’s Blue Grass airport in 2017, the new Cork ‘N’ Bottle store is a welcome sign that some US airports are at last making a better selection of American whiskeys available for travellers and tourists.
Warming Spice Edition, 21 Years Old
The new global travel-retail exclusive Ballantine’s Warming Spices Edition is the first in a series of 21-years-old expressions to showcase the different flavours created by cask maturation over two decades.
Describing this new whisky’s flavour profile, Ballantine’s master blender Sandy Hyslop says, “Over time, layers of spice develop and flourish; from hints of stem ginger, through to sweet cinnamon and spicy liquorice. This limited release showcases this evolution of flavour and delivers amplified layers of complex spices, which pay homage to 21 years of maturation.”
Ballantine’s Warming Spices Edition was first launched at Seoul Incheon airport in South Korea last year, but will be rolled out to major international airports worldwide during 2019 priced at around $147 (£116) per bottle. The expression will only be available this year.
14 Years Old
It was back in 2011 that Ian Macleod Distillers purchased the Speyside malt Tamdhu from The Edrington Group. It’s taken a further seven years for the new owner of Tamdhu to create a travel-retail exclusive range, but at World Duty Free’s UK store last November, two new sherry cask-matured expressions were unveiled: Tamdhu Gran Reserva First Edition and Tamdhu Ámbar 14 Years Old.
Our pick is the cheaper Tamdhu Ámbar 14 Years Old at £69.99, which takes its name for the Spanish work for ‘amber’, a reference to the whisky’s golden colour. On the nose, expect biscuit aromas along with notes of oak and spice. Raspberries, citrus fruit and toffee flavours burst onto the palate along with malt and gingerbread. The finish is pleasingly long.