A few weeks back, we featured World Duty Free in an article and, on a recent trip to the States, we were lucky enough to visit some of their shops at Heathrow Terminal 5. In Terminal 5 there are at least three World Duty Free shops (as well as a smaller one by the C gates), although we found that the best one was in the middle of the lower-ground concourse.
DBS started off at the Bombay Sapphire stand, where he enjoyed a Bombay Sapphire Summer Cup cocktail: a mix of Bombay Sapphire Gin, red vermouth, triple sec and ginger ale. It was fruity and delicious, with the character of the gin coming through well. Refreshing and easy-to-drink, it was enjoyed by numerous patrons who told DBS that they were not generally fans of gin.
In the whisky area, some friendly World Duty Free staff told us about the whisky travel exclusives. As I have said before, you can get some good value products in duty free*, but it’s those varieties that you can’t buy anywhere else that I find really exciting.
I was impressed that the shop had a wide range of whiskies available to taste and the they weren’t just served in plastic cups, but in Glencairn nosing glasses (like those I use at home). Here are the travel exclusives that I tried.
Auchentoshan Springwood (40%ABV) £35 – 1 Litre
Auchentoshan Springwood is matured in North American bourbon oak casks and bottled at 40%ABV. “Springwood” is the softer portion of the ring of wood produced each year in a tree; as such, this is created to be a subtle, fresh and zesty whisky.
Nose: An intriguing, syrupy note, reminiscent of sticky, chewy biscuits. This is savoury, but sticky. It fades into hints of oatcakes, followed by vanilla, oak, and, finally, syrup. The odd hint of rose also crept in.
Taste: Quite light, with lots of chewy, white wood notes. The taste hangs around in the mouth for quite a while, finishing with the same savoury, chewy oat cookie note as I got from the nose.
Auchentoshan Heartwood (43%ABV) £42 – 1 Litre
In contrast to springwood, “heartwood” is the harder, non-living core of a tree. Auchentoshan Heartwood is therefore designed to be richer and more intense than Springwood and is matured in toasted Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and deeply charred North American bourbon casks.
Nose: Vanilla and rich golden syrup. Quite sweet and accessible, with a fresh fruitiness towards the end.
Taste: A powerful warmth from the outset, with rich, woody notes softened by hints of vanilla, ensuring that this whisky is accessible, but full of flavour. There aren’t any odd notes to distract you from the wood in this whisky, which develops on the palate to a soft finish of a chewy nuttiness.
Nose: Excellent peat – really rich, with a salty tang to it – and sea salt.
Taste: This has a very silky, slightly syrupy texture to it. The peatiness from the nose is strongly evident on the taste and it’s a lovely, rich, organic peatiness. The finish is light and woody – lots of oak and hints of baked apple – with a good warmth, making me think that this would be a top-notch hipflask whisky.
Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch #4 (50.4%ABV)
Finally, I was offered a taste of a special single malt from Balvenie that they didn’t actually have in stock to buy any more. Three other batches have already been and gone, and this one – the fourth – was produced from ten rare casks (three sherry butts and seven American oak barrels) of The Balvenie that had been specially selected by David Stewart, who had been inspired by the magical atmosphere inside their Warehouse 24.
Nose: A woody, but not heavy smokiness with a honey sweetness.
Taste: Very powerful force of flavour (much better with a drop or two of water), with rich, dark wood notes and lots of dry (not sweet) spice. It has a very lasting warmth and a finish of slightly lighter wood and creamy vanilla.
If you are flying out on business or for pleasure, be sure to set a little time by to see what World Duty Free has to offer (especially anything you might not be able to get anywhere else!).
My favourite of those that I tried was, without a doubt, the Bowmore Mariner, which I bought a bottle of. I am amazed at how easy it is to drink this whisky, and yet, at the same time, how interesting it is – the extent to which it develops over time. The nose also captures my imagination, like most of the Bowmore whiskies, with its wonderful hints of the sea.
– Mrs. B.
When sampling at Duty Free or having a drink at one of Terminal 5’s outlets it’s important to remember that you cannot fly whilst intoxicated. On our outward journey, DBS had a cocktail and a sample of the Glenfiddich Millennium, and I had the (small) samples listed above, all of which were had over an hour, after a hearty breakfast and plenty of water. Duty Free is a great opportunity, but it’s important not to misuse it or risk being turned away from your flight.
* An example of some of the bargains available: 70cl of Stolichnaya Elit (RRP ) was a rather bargainous £29.99. On board our flight, litres of Smirnoff Blue (50%ABV), Gordon’s Export Strength (47.3%ABV), and Tanqueray No.10 (47.3%ABV) could be bought for £10, £10 and £22, respectively.