Calling all Highland Park fans. Dig out your passport and suitcase and find a handy excuse to travel through London Heathrow sharpish as The Edrington Group has just released a rare Highland Park bottling at World Duty Free's World of Whiskies. I hear supplies are selling out fast.
The £129.99 14 Years Old Highland Park Single Cask Edition is drawn from a 500-litre Spanish ex-sherry cask. It was filled on 25 July 2002 and placed in Warehouse 20 at Highland Park's windswept distillery in Orkney before being moved to Glasgow at the end of 2016. It was bottled at cask strength of 58.2% ABV and quantities are limited to only 588 bottles.
As for the whisky itself, the nose of this rare release is a tempting mix of black cherries, cocoa, sweet spice and peat smoke. There is more gentle peat smoke on the palate with contrasting notes of honeycomb and a rich, peaty and sweet finish.
The launch coincided with World Duty Free's annual Whisky Festival. Highland Park's senior brand ambassador Martin Markvardsen made an appearance at the Terminal 5 store to give guided tastings.
From Orkney, we travel down to Speyside and BenRiach. In truth, the distillery has had a fairly limited presence in duty free in recent years, but now Brown-Forman, the owner of Jack Daniel's, is at the helm it is already having a much higher profile in Travel Retail. Indeed, at the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition in Singapore in May three new travel-retail exclusive expressions were unveiled for the first time.
Two of the new releases are matured in smaller, quarter-sized oak casks, which allow more interaction between the spirit and the wood. The unpeated BenRiach Quarter Cask delivers notes of lemon zest, apricots and stewed barley, while BenRiach Peated Quarter Cask offers notes of honeyed peat and smoked pine wood.
The last expression in the range is likely to be highly sought after as it's unique among Scotch whiskies. BenRiach 10 Years Old Triple Distilled is the world's only 10 year-old triple-distilled Scotch whisky to hail from a Speyside distillery. It's matured in a combination of first-fill oak casks, which add vanilla and spice notes, and then first-fill Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, which add sweetness.
Once a rarity, peated Speyside malts are becoming more common, which reflects just how popular smoky Scotch whisky are in parts of the world. The Balvenie is the latest Speyside distillery to release a peated expression.
The Balvenie Peated Triple Cask Aged 14 Years is non-chill-filtered, bottled at 48.3% ABV and priced in Travel Retail at £65. The whisky is aged in three different cask types— first-fill Bourbon, re-fill Bourbon and ex-sherry. Together, these casks help create a delicately smoky whisky with warming spice notes.
Given this whisky's approachable price point, I tip The Balvenie Peated Triple Cask Aged 14 Years to be one of 2017's most successful travel-retail exclusive whisky launches.
Blenders' Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish
The new Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish is the second release in a series of experimental 'Blenders' Batch' expressions from the top-selling whisky in duty free. It is inspired by the time Diageo master blender Jim Beveridge spent blending Bourbons and rye whiskey in Kentucky in the 1990s.
Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch Bourbon Cask & Rye Finish is taken from more than 200 whisky samples aged initially in first-fill Bourbon casks and then finished in for six months in American rye whiskey casks. This rich, honeyed whisky comes from five distilleries that include Dufftown in Speyside and the now demolished Port Dundas grain distillery in Glasgow.
Following on the from the release of the initial Johnnie Walker Select Casks - Rye Cask Finish, this will be available at selected travel-retail outlets priced at around £32 for a 1 litre bottle.
British Isles Blended Whisky
This quirky blended British whisky is rapidly gaining duty-free distribution not just in the UK but also overseas. Supplied by the Cumbrian Lakes Distillery ahead of the release of its first home-produced single malt next year, The One British Isles Blended Whisky is sweet and fruity with some additional nutty and spicy notes. A whiff of peat smoke lingers on the finish.
The One British Blended Whisky comes in a 70cl bottle and can be found at World Duty Free's Newcastle airport store and onboard all of Brittany Ferries' cross-Channel routes. The whisky can also be found on sale at major Australian and New Zealand airports, including Sydney where it is priced at A$70 (£40) per bottle.