It used to be that the Duty Free – excuse me, “Travel Retail” (grumble) – selection at airports was nothing special. Indeed they were generally just overpriced, lower ABV, higher volume bottles of existing malts and blends you could get at any liquor store. Snooze.
These days things are a little different. With an international ticket, there’s an entire range of interesting whisky to tempt vulnerable (gullible?) travellers with nothing better to do during a 7-hour layover than ogle weird and interesting releases by big corporate distilleries. All of which is massively irritating to whisky lovers however – this pretentious airport exclusivity means most of these bottles are off-limits to a whole demographic of enthusiasts.
As much as I want to boycott the entire enterprise out of principle, I’m afraid the good-fight will have to be fought by better men. I picked up a sampler pack of Glenfiddich’s new core duty free lineup – called the Cask Collection – which replaces their standard 12 and 15 YO in airports.
Interestingly, each is Solera vatted, which in my mind takes a little magic away from the original 15-year-old. And each uses a different range of cask types. In this case, the entry level Select Cask, we’ve got a wild mix of Bourbon, European and red wine barrels going on here. But apart from that, typical duty free stuff – no age statement, 40% ABV and overpriced. Let’s dive in!
Simple and sweet. Lots of grass, straw and butter, piled with sweet smells like honey, white sugar and caramel. Some liquorice there, and green fruit.
Immediately, displeasure at the low ABV. This stuff is weak. Like a watery, extra-sweet version of the 12-year-old. Pleasant, but boring. The Glenfiddich apples ’n pears are there, but with a crazy new sweetness that doesn’t really do anything for me. No hint of the red wine casks, or the influence of the European oak in general. Bourbon – facefuls.
Super short, but really nice on the tongue. Very, very easy and a full flavour that reminds me of Glenmorangie (may it live forever).
…aaand it’s gone. Dead, bobbing around like a body in the Hudson. Tastes like… sugar water. Ugh.
That being said, the Select isn’t bad, just… different, and incredibly “safe”. I seriously wonder how much longevity this will have, trying to fill the shoes of the mighty Glenfiddich 12. If you have a choice, save the money and hit the 12!