I've been travelling regularly to Edinburgh airport for over two decades. Scotland's busiest international hub has been transformed over that time from a cramped, confusing place I was always glad to leave behind me, to a bright, efficient and modern airport. A £25m terminal makeover, some two years in the making, has done wonders. The undoubted highlight of that revamp is an enormous 1,240 square metre walk through World Duty Free (WDF) shop, which is almost twice the size of the previous store.
As you might expect, malt whisky is the shop's top selling product category. In fact, the 177 square metre World of Whiskies outlet is the largest to be found at any UK airport, selling over 350 whiskies. I recently toured the new store and I was pleased to discover that around 100 of those whiskies are traveller exclusives, which continue to grow in popularity despite their invariable lack of an age statement.
World of Whiskies (WOW) expects that range of travel exclusives to grow even bigger in 2016, which is why the shop's Whisky Experience sampling bar has such a central role to play. Travellers are intrigued and excited by this growing crop of exclusives, but they like to try before they buy. WOW claim that most whiskies in the store priced up to around £100 per bottle, can be sampled at the bar. I wish all airport shops could offer such a promise.
The new shop has been open since June and during that time Diageo's Classic Malts have been among the top sellers with the bone dry, massively peaty Lagavulin 16 Years Old and the beautifully balanced Oban 14 Years Old leading the rankings.
As is generally the case at airports these days, the big brands get the lion's share of floor space at Edinburgh with the likes of The Macallan, Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Highland Park, Isle of Jura and Talisker all showing off their ever widening Travel Retail exclusive ranges. Other single malt Scotch whiskies are shoehorned into wall bays arranged by whisky producing regions.
World of Whiskies always promotes a malt of the month. When I was there, Hibiki Harmony Master's Select was on show priced at £55.99. This blended Japanese malt taken from Suntory's Yamasaki and Hakushu distilleries was proving a big hit with travellers. It just goes to show how far Japanese whisky has come that it is taking on Scotch whisky in its own backyard.
For anyone travelling to Edinburgh airport I'd recommend checking out WOW's excellent website www.worldofwhiskies.com to see the latest in-store launches before they travel. Or give the knowledgeable shop staff a call on +44 (0) 13 1344 3514. Note that they run a very handy reserve and collect service which means (as long as you're returning to Edinburgh airport) you won't have to carry heavy bottles onto your flight.
Dewar's 30 Years Old Ne Plus Ultra
Dewar's continues to try and make up for lost time in Travel Retail with the staging of ever big promotions and the release of much older whiskies like this new 30 Years Old bottling, which was first unveiled at last year's DFS Masters of Wines and Spirits event in Singapore.
Dewar's 30 Years Old Ne Plus Ultra is the oldest whisky ever released in the 170 year history of the blend. Sourced from the company's private reserves, the whisky has been finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, giving the 40% ABV spirit plenty of soft vine fruits. Priced at around £325 per bottle.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Casks Edition
Johnnie Walker Travel Retail exclusive launches come so thick and fast these days. Then again I suppose you don't keep the number one spot in the duty free whisky sales rankings year after year by standing still.
This latest release, Johnnie Walker Blue Label The Casks Edition, is only available on board Singapore Airlines and comes with a bottle label and outer gift carton inspired by the uniforms of the airline's flight attendants.
The whisky itself is a higher strength 55.8% ABV than the normal Blue Label, but it still features the whisky's trademark woody aromas, and is priced at £178 onboard; quantities are limited to 2,000 bottles.