This year's Tax Free World Association World Exhibition (TFWA) down in Cannes was, as always, a real treasure trove for the malt whisky lover. I am also pleased to report that many of the exclusive whiskies on display were for once reasonably accessible in terms of price. It seems that with the Asian travel retail market temporarily in the doldrums, value for money is back on the industry agenda once more.
The fleeting appearance of David Beckham in Cannes in order to support the travel retail launch of his Haig Club whisky was undoubtedly the talk of the show. I can attest that the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star was charm personified. Yet as an example of how good a single grain whisky can be, Haig Club was eclipsed for me by the new (and admittedly rather more expensive) Girvan Patent Still 28 Years Old, which I was lucky enough to try later.
Launched as a travel retail exclusive earlier this year, Girvan Patent Still 28 Years Old is matured solely in American white oak. It's full of wonderful vanilla, creamy, butter and toffee flavours mingled with some contrasting spicy, fruity notes. The finish seemed to go on and on, and had I not had other meetings to attend, I could quite happily have nursed a glass or two of this for hours.
The juxtaposition of rich, sweet port wine and heady, peat smoke might not be to everyone's taste, but I must admit I was won over by the new travel retail exclusive Laphroaig Brodir Port Wood. This is aged initially in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in European oak casks seasoned with Ruby port wine. The finish gives the whisky a curious, unmistakable pink tinge. Retailing at around €110 (£87) for a 70cl bottle, this powerful 48% ABV whisky is a pleasing trade off between honey sweetness and a charcoal finish.
The Dalmore master distiller Richard Paterson is always consistent, and has been in his post for 44 years. The great man can still put on a great show and led a highly entertaining tasting in Cannes of the new Dalmore travel exclusive 'The Fortuna Merita Collection,' which means 'Fortune Favours the Brave.'
The new non-age statement whiskies - Regalis (€75), Luceo (€85) and Dominum (€120) - have all been aged in different types of Gonzalez Byass sherry casks. Thus, The Dalmore Regalis is finished in Amoroso; The Dalmore Luceo in Apostoles, while my favourite of the trio, the rich, sweet-tasting The Dalmore Dominium is aged in Matusalem casks.
Bruichladdich has been an outstanding success in travel retail since joining Rémy Cointreau in 2012. In Cannes there was the Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2008 and the powerful Port Charlotte PC12. Happy hunting.
21 Years Old
This remote Speyside distillery is something of an unknown quantity for many malt whisky drinkers, having never been issued as a single-malt before now. Owner Bacardi's John Dewar & Sons is keen to make up for last time and has released two expressions: a 12 Years Old and a new travel retail exclusive 21 Years Old.
The 21 Years Old is a real delight, having been matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in sherry hogsheads. It manages to be light, fresh and floral, but also complex and long lasting on the palate thanks to all those years in the cask. Like all the new malts Bacardi is introducing this year, Aultmore 21 Years Old is not chill filtered and doesn't have caramel added.
The new Aultmore 21 Years Old will be available as an exclusive with World Duty Free Group at major UK and Spanish airports for a year.
This new release, the first in a series of 50 Years Old whiskies from The Glenlivet, is a major move upmarket from the world's second best-selling single-malt.
The £17,995 Glenlivet Winchester Collection takes its name current master distiller Alan Winchester, but was actually laid in casks back in the 1960s by Captain Bill Smith-Grant, the last descendant of the distillery's founder George Smith. Matured for five decades in ex-bourbon casks, this rich, complex whisky is bursting with ripe pears, oranges and black cherries alongside buttery toffee notes.
Presented in a slim crystal decanter, quantities of The Glenlivet Winchester Collection are currently limited to just a bottle each in London Heathrow's Terminal Two and Five with World Duty Free.