Frequent fliers know that airport duty-free liquor stores are mostly stocked with low-end regional novelty bottles and familiar brands rewrapped in gift packs. But train your gaze a bit higher on the shelf, and you’ll discover a range of unique, hard-to-find expressions that are worth traveling for alone. Here, a few new travel retail-exclusive whiskies to keep on your radar for the next time you travel the globe.
Named for King James IV’s annual pilgrimage to Saint Duthac’s shrine in Tain, the home of the Glenmorangie Distillery, Duthac is a 43 percent ABV, non-age-statement single-malt made from a combination of three Glenmorangie liquids: Glenmorangie aged in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, Glenmorangie matured in the same ex-bourban casks, then finished in sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry casks, and Glenmorangie matured the same way, then finished in charred virgin American oak barrels. Head of maturing whisky stocks Brendan McCarron said the internal nickname for Duthac is “baby Signet,” referring to the outlier of the Glenmorangie brand family that has hearty coffee and chocolate notes, but we find it much gentler than Signet and extremely easy to drink.
Stocked only in duty-free stores (albeit globally), Duthac is a permanent (rather than limited-edition) travel retail-exclusive Scotch whisky ($85 for a 1-liter bottle), and the first in a new series of Glenmorangie exclusives called the Legends Collection.
Mortlach Special Strength
Described as meaty, sulfur-influenced, and sherried, Mortlach single-malt Scotch whisky has rightly earned the nickname “The Beast of Dufftown.” While the liquid produced at this distillery was mostly employed as a single-malt mixed into blended whiskies, rare releases and independent bottlings baring the brand’s name popped up on occasion—including their recent release of Mortlach 18-Year-Old and Mortlach 25-Year-Old. Now brand owner Diageo is making a push to promote it as a stand-alone luxury brand—no surprise as whisky drinkers appear to be gravitating more towards Islay and other bold-flavored scotches.
This non-age-statement Mortlach Special Strength is a higher-proof travel retail exclusive variant of the 43.3 percent Mortlach Rare Old. The expression is drawn from a combination of first fill, refill, and re-charred American and European oak casks, and bottled at 49 percent ABV. At some airports, the new bottling comes with a crystal tumbler set ($120)—but still a rare find, no matter how it comes.
Jim Beam Kentucky Dram
To our knowledge, Kentucky Dram is the only bottled blend of American and Scotch whiskies aside from High West’s Campfire (a blend of scotch, bourbon, and rye whiskey). The limited-edition travel exclusive product that just launched this July is made with Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey blended with “a touch of peaty Highland scotch.” (While they don’t name names, peated Highland scotch whiskies are so rare, it’s a safe bet that the scotch in question is Ardmore, which is also owned by Beam Suntory.)
The new scotch-bourbon hybrid, bottled at 40 percent ABV, comes in a gift tin ($45 for a 750ml bottle). We haven’t had the pleasure of trying this one yet, but you can bet we’ll be keeping an eye out for it before boarding our flight.