The growing popularity of single malt whisky in duty-free never ceases to amaze. Consider Muscat Seeb international airport in the Muslim state of Oman, for instance, where the sale of alcohol to the local population is of course strictly forbidden. You might think then the airport’s Muscat Duty Free store an unlikely place to unveil a new malt whisky concept, but that is exactly what happened earlier this year.
Foreign ex-pat workers are the intended customers. The rules dictate these passengers can bring in two litres of alcohol each (Muscat Duty Free operates an arrivals shop at the airport).
There is also a handy pre-order service available so passengers can pick what they like in the new Uisge Beatha malt whisky corner and then pick it up on their return to the airport.
So what can these ex-pats find in Uisge Beatha?
Well, there is a decent selection of mid-range malts such as The Dalmore 15 Years Old, Glengoyne 17 Years Old, Clynelish 14 Years Old and Bowmore 17 Years Old for starters.
There are also some tasty travel-retail exclusives such as the wonderfully packaged Glenfiddich Age of Discovery 19 Years Old, which is matured in ex-Madeira wine casks to create a fantastically rich, sweet whisky. The rich, softly smoky Highland Park Vintage 1994 is also highly recommended.
Blends are of course big business throughout the Middle East, and Muscat Duty Free stocks some pretty pricey examples. Take your pick from the like of Dewar’s Signature, Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V Edition and Ballantine’s 30 Years Old.
Away from Scotland, the choice of whiskies is distinctly limited. Nevertheless, travellers can still find Midleton Very Rare, the travel-retail exclusive Jack Daniel’s Silver Select and Maker’s Mark.
18 Years Old
One of a batch of new releases making their debut at the Cannes show this month, Greenore 18 Years Old from Cooley Distillery.
Following on from the successful 15 Year Old expression, the new 46% ABV 18 Years Old is limited to just 4,000 bottles so it is unlikely to be around for too long.
Teacher’s may have a huge following in emerging markets such as India and Brazil, but this famous blend has always lacked a family of older, higher-priced expressions to do battle with the likes of Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal. Owner Beam Global belatedly aims to put that right and an important step in the journey is the launch of Teacher’s Origin, which gets is travel-retail launch this month.
Now Teacher’s Origin doesn’t bear an age statement, but Beam still intends it to compete against 12 year old blends such as Johnnie Walker. So what’s different about the juice inside the bottle to justify the higher price tag?
Well, the whisky has been doubled matured in 19th century-style quarter casks. It is a technique Beam has used with great success with Laphroaig, the smaller casks ensuring more of the whisky comes into contact with the wood. The quarter casks speed up the maturation process and add complexity and depth to the finished product, which in Origin’s case has a rich, malty flavour underpinned by a light smokiness imparted by Teacher’s signature malt, Ardmore.
Origin also contains a higher malt content than standard Teacher’s. Expect to pay around €29.90 (£25.90) in travel-retail outlets for a 1-litre bottle, which is not yet available in any domestic market other than in India.