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Issue 3 - A matter of duty

Whisky Magazine Issue 3
May 1999

 

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A matter of duty

Eighty-five bottles of Scotch are sold every minute in duty-free shops around the world. Martin Moodie looks at where the best ranges can be found, and where it's worth missing your fight for a special bottling.

Early on a Wednesday morning and malt whisky sales are already doing a roaring trade in one west London liquor store. But this isn't any corner shop trying to defy local licensing laws. The venue is London Heathrow airport's Terminal One where a specialist store called Whiskies of the World has become a beacon for whisky lovers, lured by a range of fine and often rare malts such as 1955 Strathisla, 50 year old Glenfiddich and Bowmore 50 year old, the last two a comparative snip at £3,500 each.

The ambience is more akin to that of a gentleman's wine merchant in St James's (the shop manager, Brian O'Neill, describes himself as a ‘whisky consultant') than the old stack ‘em high sell ‘em cheap image of a British duty-free shop. Multi-lingual staff help connoisseurs and newcomers alike in tutored tastings of approximately 25 different lines each day. The Heathrow store (called World of Whiskies in Terminals Two, Three and Four and at London Gatwick's North Terminal) typifies the way many of the world's leading airports have become treasure chests crammed with quality whisky.

Locations such as London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol offer some fantastic, often rare bottlings – many of them exclusive to duty-free stores. During my last visit to Heathrow, for example, I was tempted by a Bruichladdich 25 year old for £50, courted by a similarly-aged Highland Park for £89.99 and finally seduced by a 1955 Longmorn for £189. And if I'd had any money left, I probably would h...

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