Whisky Magazine Issue 130
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The explosion in Global Travel Retail, especially ‘Exclusives'
Whisky and duty-free have long been inseparable companions. Whether a highly flammable product like whisky, packaged in fragile, yet heavy glass bottles, ever should have had any place in the history of aviation is a moot point. Yet for decades airports have partly relied on the income from duty-free sales of Scotch whisky, fragrances, confectionery and other products. The cash helps airports lower airlines fees, which in turn allows airlines to reduce ticket prices, fuelling the ever growing appetite for international travel worldwide.
Duty-free is now a giant £40 billion business encompassing airport shops, ferries, cruise lines, airlines and border stores worldwide. Yet the modern era of duty-free shopping has humble origins. It started at Shannon airport in windswept County Clare in 1947. The early transatlantic planes of the time had to stop at Shannon on the west coast of Ireland to refuel on both legs of the long, bumpy journey. Weary passengers took the opportunity to stretch their limbs and warm up with an Irish coffee.
The airport's enterprising catering controller Dr. Brendan O'Regan decided to open the world's first airport dutyfree shop to extract a few extra dollars from this captive audience. He argued that as the passengers had already cleared passport control they had effectively ‘left' the country and therefore the duties and taxes applicable no longer applied. The shop, more of a shack in truth, was an instant success. Within a few years Irish whiskey ...