Where would you expect to find Europe’s largest duty-free shop? Heathrow would be a good guess perhaps, or maybe Paris Charles de Gaulle or even Amsterdam Schiphol? Actually, though all those hub airports boast large shops, bragging rights for that particular accolade go to Istanbul’s Atatürk airport, where an enormous 2,500sq m store opened late last year.
Duty-free is big business in this part of the world – many of the spirit brands available at the airport’s shopping mall can’t be found in the domestic market, where high taxes make prices on what is stocked there a whopping 40-90 per cent more expensive. Unsurprisingly,Turkish travellers flock to their local duty-free store in droves, but Brits, Russian and Germans shop there in big numbers too.
The new shop’s modern and stylish layout and merchandising are top notch, as is the extensive whisky selection, which runs to 42 brands and accounts for nearly 50 per cent of all the spirits sold there. Rarities and collectors’ items are arguably thin on the ground, but there are plenty of ultra-premium blends on offer such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label (€133/£102), Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Years Old (€96/£73.65) and Ballantine’s 30 Years Old (€257/£197.20).
The malt selection runs to 15 well-known brands. Examples of lines currently stocked include Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years Old (¤36.50/£28), Highland Park 12 Years Old (¤34/£26), Glenfiddich Gran Reserva 21 Years Old
(€105/£80.55) and Talisker 10 Years Old (€43/£33). For the full lowdown of what’s on offer and to take advantage of a handy online pre-order service, log on to the website: www.atu.com.tr/ENG.
If you are flying into the airport, it’s worth knowing that the spirits allowance is a generous four 75 cl bottles or two 1 litre bottles. If you are leaving, the authorities will let you buy up to 12 75cl or six 1 litre bottles, but please check the allowance limit of your destination country before you decide to stock up on your favourite dram.
1978 Private Vintage
Serendipity can be a wonderful thing. Sometimes a release almost passes underneath the radar, but as sheer blind luck would have it I recently picked up a tatty inflight shopping brochure on a long and tedious Virgin Atlantic flight and came across this gem.
Glenfiddich 1978 Vintage is sold exclusively onboard Virgin Atlantic priced at £250. Bottled from cask 28136 at 49.2% ABV, the whisky is limited to only 237 bottles.
It was listed onboard the airline last Autumn and in the first month the airline sold nearly a dozen bottles – one eager (and some might say greedy) customer bought himself five bottles.
Stocks are running out fast so if you are travelling on Virgin anytime soon, take advantage of the airline’s handy pre-order service at www.virgin-atlantic.com
57 Degrees North
Duty-free is fast becoming the new darling of drinks giant Diageo. Recognising the channel as an excellent testing ground, the company has rolled out several exclusives of late – anyone remember last year’s The Singleton of Dufftown, for instance?
Talisker 57 Degrees North is another release exclusively reserved for travellers.With a name celebrating the distillery’s northerly latitude on Skye,57 Degrees North packs quite a punch at 57% ABV and boasts the classic smoky flavour you’d expect from an Island malt.With water the whisky opens up to reveal a satisfyingly sweet smoothness.
You will find 57 Degrees North at major European airports, as well as onboard North Sea and Nordic ferry services. A 1litre bottle has a recommended price of £43.99.