How do you motivate staff working at an airport shop? It's a tough problem for airport retailers. Working in the Travel Retail sector is not the most straightforward career choice. International airports tend to be located miles away from city centres so lengthy commutes are common. Then there is the constant security checks and long hours that go hand in hand with working airside. There are probably easier ways to make a living.
Dublin airport retailer ARI, however, appears to have struck on a novel way to keep staff happy. Get them interested in Irish whiskey! In 2014 the Aviator's Whiskey Society was formed by airport staff to promote, celebrate and enjoy whiskey. The club now boasts well over 50 members and its own website: www.aviatorswhiskeysociety.com. The society meets bi-monthly at a pub near the airport to hear guest speakers from distilleries such as Tullamore DEW, Midleton and Bushmills, and has even gone on a field trip to Dublin's Irish Whiskey Museum.
In March the society went one step further, taking members to the newly opened Teeling Whiskey Distillery for an exciting blind taste test to choose a single cask whiskey for sale at the airport. Managing Director Jack Teeling rummaged around in his inventory and came up with four casks for sampling - a rum, port, Bourbon and cabernet sauvignon cask. The robust, fruity 12 years old ex-Californian wine cask finished sample triumphed and was promptly sent off for bottling.
The Aviators Single Cask is now on sale at Dublin airport, but be quick if you are interested as quantities are limited to just over 300 70cl bottles. For any traveller flying outside the European Union (EU) the price will be €73 (£56.40), while for those travelling inside, the whiskey will cost a little more at €85 (£65.70).
Let's move on from a modestly priced whiskey in Dublin to the other end of the price spectrum at the always impressive Le Clos chain of six fine wine and spirits stores at Dubai international's Terminal 3. In May the retailer took stock of the entire 21 bottle The Dalmore Constellation Collection, one of only four released, and valued collectively at a rather steep $333,500 (£231,435).
Painstakingly put together by The Dalmore's long-serving Master Distiller Richard Paterson, the 21 whiskies were created between 1964 and 1992, and are all naturally coloured and bottled at cask strength. Each whisky is presented in a hand-blown decanter, which is housed in a lacquered presentation cabinet. If you're passing through the airport, the collection is on show at Le Clos' store in Concourse B or Terminal 3.
Finally, I should mention the opening of a new single-malt concept store by Diageo at Taiwan's Taoyuan international airport. It's always been an important location for single malt sales so it's a great test location. Along with various displays and a tasting bar, The Singleton Sensorium features a range of Travel Retail exclusive expressions from the three Diageo distilleries grouped together under The Singleton umbrella brand: Glen Ord, Dufftown and Glendullan.
With affordable in-store prices ranging from around $50 (£34.70) for the Singleton of Glendullan 12 Years Old to $160 (£111) for The Singleton of Glendullan Master's Art, the Sensorium is clearly targeted at hooking blended whisky drinkers into the world of single-malt.
I expect similar corners and pop-up shops to open up at other airports in Asia and beyond in the not too distant future.
Only a few years ago it was rare to find a Japanese whisky at an airport store outside of Japan, but times have changed. International demand for Japanese whiskies among travellers has grown to such an extent that Beam Suntory has just released its first ever Travel Retail exclusive Japanese whisky, the first of many more to come I hope.
The Chita is a grain whisky that Suntory's whisky blenders use to harmonise and balance their grain whiskies. It was previously only available on the Japanese domestic market. Bright gold in colour The Chita has notes of acacia honey and blossoming rose on the nose, while its smooth, subtle palate also delivers bittersweet hints of spiced oak.
The Chita comes in a 70cl bottle presented in an indigo blue gift box. It should be available at major airport shops priced at about £38 per bottle from July onwards.
The mighty Johnnie Walker family just keeps on getting bigger. This latest release, Johnnie Walker Island Green, is very different from its brothers and sisters, however. It's a blended malt and an offspring of the much loved Johnnie Walker Green Label, which was recently resurrected due to popular demand, which offers up a higher proportion of smoky Islay malt Caol Ila.
Robust fruity Highland malts such as Clynelish and the lighter, floral Lowland Glenkinchie round out the flavour profile of this new Johnnie Walker whisky, which will be widely available at all major airport stores worldwide from July priced at around £41.60 for a 1 litre bottle.