Travel Retail

The masters

Joe Bates looks at what's happening in the Asian market
By Joe Bates
This is Asia’s century, or so economic forecasters and social commentators keep telling us. The balance of power within the global travel trade seems to be inexorably shifting eastwards. Many are predicting that 2012 will be the year when Asia finally overtakes Europe as the world’s biggest travel-retail market.

If proof were needed of this trend, look no further than DFS Group’s recent Master of Spirits II event, which was held at Singapore’s Grand Hyatt hotel. Attended by media and hundreds of invitation-only guests, this gala event attracted the great and the good from the whisky and wider luxury spirits worlds.

The roll call of top brand ambassadors making the long trip out East to give talks, tastings and master classes at this event included Glenfiddich global ambassador Ian Millar, Johnnie Walker global brand ambassador Jonathan Driver, The Dalmore master blender Richard Paterson, and David Cox, director of fine & rare whiskies at The Macallan.

As for the products themselves, some S$1m (£631,600) worth of rare and collectible spirits, wines and Champagnes was up for grabs at the event. Afterwards, DFS Group transferred the collection (carefully, we trust) to Singapore Changi airport’s Terminal 3, where they were displayed on the concourse for the entire month of April.

How many of these rare spirits and wines actually got sold on the night has yet to be announced. As this was the second time DFS has put on this show, it is a safe bet that there must have been some seriously minted collectors in attendance.

The most expensive bottle on offer at Master of Spirits II was The Dalmore 1926, which was priced at a cool S$300,000 (£151,000). As might be expected with a whisky this rare, the packaging and decanter, which features a solid silver collar and a stopper containing a bona fide 1.83-carat diamond.

Other highlights included the unashamedly royalist Diamond Jubilee by John Walker & Sons; the rare 60 year old blend finished in oak casks grown on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. The Macallan also chipped in with bottles of The Macallan Sherry Oak 20 Year Old whisky and The 1946 Macallan along with accompanying prints from the brand’s collaboration with veteran Scottish celebrity photographer Albert Watson.

Meanwhile The Last Drop Distillers presented The Last Drop 1960 Blended Scotch Whisky: a selection of Scotch whiskies distilled before 1960, and then blended in 1972. Several of the whiskies making up this dram came from distilleries that have long since closed down.

On a night dedicated to luxury and wealth, there was a welcome philanthropic note.

A S$3,000 (£1,900) bottle of Glenfiddich 1973 Limited Edition Cask No. 9899, which was donated by William Grant & Sons chairman Peter Gordon himself, was put up for sale in aid of DFS Group’s worthy Hand in Hand for Haiti charity group.


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Johnnie Walker

Blue Label, The Casks

Those clever chaps at Diageo continue to find new ways of keeping the mighty Johnnie Walker brand fresh and relevant in the eyes of travelling punters.

Their latest is Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Casks, a new higher strength version at 55.8% ABV.

Described as being made from some of Diageo’s ‘rarest casks’, this new blend boasts some intensified rich wood flavours along with some deep smoke, traces of spice and a long, lingering oak finish. Savour it with a glass of fresh mineral water alongside is the official advice.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Casks will be available in selected duty-free shops worldwide from May this year priced at around
£300, a significant step up in price from traditional Blue Label, which hovers around the £185 mark.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Casks is a new expression of real merit, which should be of real interest to many travelling Johnnie Walker fans.


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The Balvenie

Tun 1401, Batch 4

One of the more notable single-malt releases at May’s TFWA Asia Pacific exhibition in Singapore was a new travel-retail exclusive expression from The Balvenie.

The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 4 may not be the easiest bar call in the history of Scotch whisky, but it certainly has an interesting wood backstory. Malt master David Stewart married whiskies, which had been matured in three sherry butts from the years 1970, 1971 and 1973, along with seven traditional American oak barrels from the following years: 1966, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980 and 1990.

The resulting 48% ABV dram has plenty of vanilla and butterscotch on the palate with plenty of soft ripe fruit and citrus sweetness on the nose.

Quantities of The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 4 are limited to 2,500 bottles, which are priced at around £150 each.

Expect to find this new whisky at large airports.