Travel Retail

Travel retail: New exclusives provide cheer amidst travel chaos

Travelling overseas isn’t much fun at present, but at least distillers are stepping up to the plate with some exciting, if expensive, new exclusive releases
By Joe Bates
There is no point in sugar-coating it. For thousands of travellers in Europe and the US, flying has suddenly become a nightmare experience to avoid at all costs. Long queues, last-minute flight cancellations, horribly congested airports and lost luggage have become the norm in recent months as the aviation industry desperately tries to recruit enough staff to meet soaring customer demand after the pandemic.

For anyone brave enough to be travelling over the next couple of months, there is the slight consolation that many Scotch and Irish whisky distilleries are finally turning on their new product development pipelines for travel retail.

Arguably, the most exciting new exclusive release of 2022 so far is Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail’s new Secret Speyside Single Cask Editions, a seven-strong collection of vintage single-cask whiskies sourced from four Speyside distilleries: Longmorn, a blender’s favourite over the decades; Caperdonich, closed since 2002; Glen Keith, producer of light and fruity malts; and finally, Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval), the highest distillery in Scotland and close neighbour to the iconic Glenlivet Distillery.

These seven ultra-rare malts, which have all been matured in separate American oak casks for between 21 and 27 years, some of them first-fill, will surely pique the interest of travelling collectors. The new Secret Speyside Single Cask Editions range follows on from the pre-pandemic release of The Secret Speyside Collection, a range of 15 travel-retail whiskies which were launched worldwide in 2019 before eventually being released into domestic markets, too.

Each of the new Single Cask Editions has been allocated to a specific airport worldwide. Thus, Speyside Caperdonich Peated 1996 is exclusive to duty-free retailer Heinemann at Frankfurt airport, priced at around GB£877, while Caperdonich Unpeated 1996 is only on sale at World Duty Free’s stores at London Heathrow, also priced at about £877. Similarly, Secret Speyside Braes of Glenlivet 1992 (£825) is exclusive to Dubai Duty Free at Dubai international airport, while Glen Keith 1998 has gone on sale at Shanghai airport priced at around £375.

Finally, Secret Speyside Glen Keith 1994 is exclusive to Hong Kong airport, priced at £635, while Longmorn 1998 and Longmorn 1995 have been allocated to Singapore Changi and Taiwan Taoyuan airports, priced at £400 and £667 respectively. Hopefully, Sandy Hyslop, Chivas Brothers’ director of blending and inventory, can find more rarities lying in the warehouses of these lesser-known distilleries so that Secret Speyside can become established as an eagerly awaited annual launch for the travel-retail business.

In the meantime, there is more good news for collectors as The Macallan has released yet another luxury travel exclusive. The Tales of The Macallan Volume I is the first release in a new range aimed at telling the story of pioneering figures from the distillery’s distinguished history. Tales of The Macallan Volume I, The Laird of Easter Elchies (1659–1715) pays homage to the figure of Captain John Grant, who established a farming community around the famous Easter Elchies manor house, which he restored before the first distillery was built.

Distilled in 1950 and bottled in 1971, The Tales of The Macallan Volume I is limited to 350 decanters worldwide, each one having a recommended retail price of about £60,000, making this rarefied release firmly targeted at the one-percenters. Bottled at 44.6% ABV, the whisky offers lots of rich oak notes on the nose along with ripe plum, wood smoke, vanilla and almond. On the palate, peach and apple come to the fore alongside ginger, clove and sweet wood smoke, too.

The Tales of The Macallan Volume I comes in a suitably impressive-looking Lalique decanter, which is cleverly inserted into a leather book made by traditional London-based bookbinders Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe and Zaehnsdorf. Each chapter tells the story of John Grant and features illustrations by Andrew Davidson, who famously drew the memorable imagery for Ted Hughes’ popular children’s novel The Iron Man (1968).

The Tales of The Macallan Volume I will be going on sale at The Macallan’s airport boutiques which are now located at New York JFK, Taiwan Taoyuan, Dubai international and London Heathrow, as well as at other duty-free stores at large international hub airports.

It seems the well of creativity never runs dry for The Macallan: it has released yet another stunning expression for travel retail which will surely be fought over by travelling collectors in the weeks and months ahead. The pace of the brand’s releases is impressive, and it remains to be seen how competitors will respond.