Travel Retail

Reaching Madrid

Joe Bates braves volcano-related travel chaos to visit Madrid Barajas Airport
By Joe Bates
Europe’s aviation business has been left reeling from the fallout from April’s volcanic ash cloud. The total bill from the week-long shutdown could be as much as £2 billion. The continent’s duty-free shops shared the pain, too, losing around £22 million for every day planes were gathering volcanic dust on the tarmac, according to industry estimates.

Madrid-Barajas airport was one of the few European hubs to remain open during the crisis, offering a slim chance for long-haul passengers stranded in far off places to get a step closer to home. It is a safe bet that duty-free shopping was not high on the agenda for the tens of thousands passing through Barajas at the time, which is a shame.

At Terminal 1 we found a solid selection of whiskies. Arguably, the biggest surprise was a bottle of Yamazaki 12 Years Old €45 (£39), further proof of Japanese whisky’s increasing popularity in European travel-retail. On the high-end single malt front we spotted a bottle of Glenfiddich 30 Years Old at €228 (£198), Glenfiddich 21 Years Old at€86 (£75) and Glenrothes 25 Years Old at €235 (£204). The Macallan was also well represented with the nicely balanced travel-retail exclusive The Macallan Select Oak (€46/£40); another exclusive, the rich, fruity The Macallan Estate Reserve (€165/£143), and finally the complex The Macallan 18 Years Old (€89/£77).

There was no shortage of ultra-premium blends either. Travellers can choose from the likes of Dewar’s Signature at €165 (£143), Johnnie Walker Blue Label (also at€165) and Chivas Regal 25 Years Old at €199 (£173).

On the downside the shops at the airport have a limited presence on the airport’s website,www.aena.es, which means travellers don’t have the opportunity to browse the offer for new launches or promotions before they travel.


BEST BUY
Laphroaig

Double Cask 20 Years Old

It is not often you get the chance to see the birth of a whisky, but this is exactly what happened on a frosty, but bright February morning up at the Laphroaig distillery earlier this year. I was on hand to see the liquor buyer of French duty-free retailer Aelia Philippe Lanusse and distillery manager John Campbell carefully choose a selection of casks to create a one-off exclusive, which is now on sale only at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

With an ABV of 46.6%, Laphroaig Double Cask 20 Years Old has been matured for 18 years in hogshead barrels and then placed in 125 litre quarter casks for a further two to give a richer, sweeter style of the famous Islay malt.

The finished liquid is bright gold in colour. On the nose and palate Laphroaig’s trademark smokiness is tempered with flavours of sweet vanilla, liquorice and a pleasing dry oakiness.

Quantities of Laphroaig Double Cask 20 Years Old are limited to 750 bottles priced at €225 (£195.60) each.


RECOMMENDED
Chieftain’s

Springbank 40 Years Old

This rare whisky inexplicably flew under my radar when Iain Macleod Distillers first presented it at the TFWA Asia Pacific duty-free exhibition in Singapore last year. Distilled back in 1968 at the famous Campbeltown distillery, the whisky is described as being ‘the last, oldest and best cask’ from Iain Macleod’s current Chieftain’s collection.

Matured in first fill sherry butts and bottled at a powerful 54% ABV.