What’s the Story with Duty Free?

OK, first off, if you don’t travel internationally, you may not want to read further as it might just really annoy you to hear about the fantastic benefits to duty free whisky shopping.

It took me a few years to catch on the joy of duty free. I used to walk past those shops in various airports around the world and think to myself “why would I buy jewelery, perfume/cologne etc. at an airport?” I’m a busy traveling business guy and I’m just rushing to catch my next flight (or to find an airline lounge and do email).

But, when I realized that whisky is involved, I looked a little closer. It was an enlightening moment when I saw the pricing (often substantial savings) and more importantly the selection (it is often exceptional – and in some cases even unique).

Until then, I had no idea that major whisky distillers were actually creating unique bottlings specifically for international airports. Imagine that – a whole new world of special bottlings with which to experiment! For example, there’s a whole array of Highland Park bottlings that are only available at major airports – who knew?sar exquisite suppliers

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is my most frequent connection and I highly recommend the duty free shop called ExQuisite which is all about spirits and they have a nice whisky selection.

Another frequent stop for me is London’s Heathrow airport where I always swing by the World of Whiskies shop on the way to gate when returning home.

What are your duty-free whisky experiences, tips and favorites?

Balvenie Caribbean Cask -A Spiced up Malt

Though I love a classic bourbon barrel aged single malt Scotch, I’m always looking for a unique or different style to experiment with. I’m fascinated with how the nature of the barrels/casks used for aging and finishing can imbue such a wide range of attributes to the end result.

So, when I saw that this bottling from Balvenie, one of the great Scotch distillers, was actually finished in a rum cask, I just couldn’t resist! The aging is done in traditional oak casks and then the mature whisky is moved to casks that were conditioned with a mix of Western Indian rums for finishing.

I like this poured neat which delivers a wonderful full-bodied honeyed pallet with a long finish combining toffee/vanilla with nice balance of fruit and spice that doesn’t overwhelm but delights.

Looking to experiment a little – I highly recommend you give this a try.

What’s all the fuss about Whisky Glasses?

Wondering what to make of the whisky glass debate? Well you’re not the only one!

Here at, I’ve made a project out of experimenting with various glasses and though my methods are not entirely scientific, I believe I can still extrapolate some interesting conclusions from my findings.

If you’re interested in my scientific method, I’ll summarize it as: try lots of things while simultaneously trying to remember what happens when you do.

Embracing the rigors of the project, I worked diligently at this task and found that despite my initial skepticism, the glass used makes a remarkable difference in the experience.

Taking this Lagavulin 16, for example, I found the traditional style drinks glass on the left yielded a slightly bitter, harsh experience with a stronger alcohol overtone than I liked. The smaller Glencairn glass on the right produced a neat and clean delivery of the classic earthy, peaty wonderfulness I enjoy in this Islay malt

Then the surprise. The larger Glencairn glass in the middle, though designed ostensibly for Canadian whisky, was in fact fantastic for this classic single malt Scotch. Something about the larger but not too large shape of the bowl and funnel combined with the fluted lip of the glass directed flow of the whisky a little differently and produced a fantastic effect for me.

For the good of science and integrity of my whisky experimentation, I will now  repeat this procedure with even more whisky bottlings! Our work is never done here at

A hard to find Bunnahabhain

One fateful night at my favorite food and spirits spot in in Seattle called Damn The Weather, I tried a Bunnahabhain called Ceòbanach (please don’t ask me how to pronounce that) that simply knocked me out.

This Islay Island distiller is best known for unpeated bottlings with a sweet subtle sea and salt palette but this dram was really something else. It had a surprisingly earthy, peaty punch with a fine smoky finish. Wow – it was fantastic!

But now the dilemma – that was literally the last they had of this bottling at DtW and  I’ve only come across it once since (at The Whisky House in San Diego). Despite looking at shops around the world, I can’t find a bottle anywhere.

If you know where to find this fine whisky anywhere in the world (preferably near a major airport), let me know.

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