Flavoured US whiskey is just about the hottest ticket in town at present. Outside the States, that bandwagon has yet to really roll into travel retail, but that hasn't stopped Beam Suntory launching something rather different in airports this summer.
Jim Beam Kentucky Dram is a 40 per cent ABV Kentucky Straight Bourbon blended with a touch of peated Scotch. Where the Scotch comes from isn't specified, but it's a safe bet it hails from one of Beam's own Islay brands such as Laphroaig or the gentler Bowmore.
Priced at around £35 per one litre bottle, this curious hybrid complete with gift tin, tells the story of T. Jeremiah Beam who took on the family business in 1943 and travelled the world, bringing a taste of home to American forces stationed abroad.
The limited edition release with its mix of vanilla, smoke and oak notes certainly seems intriguing if you wish to try something genuinely different. Innovation is undoubtedly in the air, and not just in the Bourbon business.
Recently, Dublin airport was the launchpad for Tullamore D. E. W. Cider Cask, a travel exclusive and the world's first Irish whiskey finished in cider casks. The production process is unusual in that it is seasonal, made only between September and November after the Irish apple harvest.
Three months maturation in cider casks give the whiskey time to soak up the tart, apple flavours. Oak and creamy malt notes balance out the flavour suggesting great things to come from Tullamore D. E. W.
With ripe pear and creamy coconut notes, The Glenlivet Master Distiller's Reserve has been a big hit since its launch in 2011. Now this has been joined by two higher-priced siblings, both also exclusive to travel retail. The first is the Master Distiller's Reserve Solera Vatted, priced at about £47. It features a combination of whiskies from ex-Sherry, American oak and traditional oak casks married together in a Solera Vat, which is never emptied, lending depth and complexity.
The high concentration of first-fill American oak casks in Master Distiller's Reserve Solera Vatted ramps up the levels of cream and honey sweetness in the overall flavour. The finish is smooth with marzipan and hazelnuts.
At about £95 per bottle The Glenlivet Master Distiller's Reserve Small Batch is the highest-priced expression in the range. As the name suggests, this dram is sourced from a small number of hand-selected first-fill ex-Sherry, American oak and traditional oak casks. On the nose, peach notes and ginger spice; the palate is warm and fruity with subtle vanilla and liquorice.
Arguably, neither of these are as experimental as the Kentucky Dram or Tullamore D. E. W. Cider Cask, but travelling fans of The Glenlivet will relish the wider selection on offer.
I remember travelling to Ardmore back in 2007 when the distillery first released a single malt, Ardmore Traditional Cask. It had a robust, gutsy flavour.
After all that time, two new traveller only expressions have made an appearance. The Ardmore Triple Wood, the more expensive of the two at about €62 (£44), is matured in American oak, quarter cask and 500 litre puncheons and bottled at 46% ABV. Light peat is very much the order of the day along with caramelised sugar and toasted barley flavours complete with an attractive bottle label and gift tin.
This new über premium expression from Chivas Regal is doing the rounds at Asia's major airports. The price tag of $3,500 (£2,250) puts this new release, a blend of over 20 rare whiskies, out of reach of most of us mere mortals. Its luxury Dartington crystal decanter comes will all the bells and whistles this sort of price bracket demands.
As for the juice itself, three single malts lie at the heart of Chivas Regal The Icon - Strathisla, long considered the heart of Chivas Regal, Longmorn and the recently reopened Glen Keith. Notes of vanilla, dark chocolate and subtle hazelnut combine to deliver a rich, smooth flavour profile very much in keeping with the Chivas house style.