THE TRAVELLING GIFT-STER 31/12/2015 in Musings

Top 5 holiday picks from the duty free zone

A generous aunt in Europe, a well to do uncle in America, a successfully settled sibling in Canada – showing off relatives abroad for any Indian have always come with its perks, the biggest being the bag of goodies from the duty free they’d pick up for you. Expensive chocolates for the kiddos, Chanel No. 5 for mom, and the good ol’ bottle of Johnnie Walker for dad.  While foreign fields have always had a charm of their own, it’s the magical little kingdom of tax-free treasures of the Duty Free that is irresistibly charming. As a voracious traveller and a consummate shopper, I stash some cash just for this blissfully happy mile(s) at the airports across the world. Face it – Indians travellers, vacationers, globetrotters love their shopping binges, especially those unbelievable deals at the dazzling duty free counters of Singapore, Dubai, Heathrow & now India. The spanking new dose of modernisation, over the last few years, has been shooting life into the Duty Free landscape across all Indian airports. Whether you are in transit and bored out of your wits, the last minute shopper, a sucker for souvenirs, the impulse buyer, or the globetrotter with an eye for collector’s items, the desi Duty Free has upped its game. With limited editions, deals and gift packs, it’s hic, hic hurray for the spirited traveller.

But before you pick up your spirit from the 2 litre allowance here’s my tried and tested three point agenda –

1. Eye the Exclusive – Before you venture out, sniffing for value deals, look out for the Duty Free Exclusives. Zero in on your choice, and look closely for the term, “Traveller  Exclusive” (or something close to that) and then give it a shot. Devil lies in the details, and I’d appeal to the geek in you to read at the back of your bottle/ pack, maturation details, cask finishes, other production factors which makes it stand apart. Still clueless? Then there is no harm in asking a staff member on the floor for assistance for the point is to savour a rare/exclusive edition. It does make for more than half the pleasure, doesn’t it! 

2. Chuck the comfort zone – There are three kinds of whisky lovers – buyers, collectors and investors. Now, if you are buying for yourself, then it always pays to get out of that lazy comfort zone and expand the universe of your spirit. This is a good place and time to add value to that liquor cabinet, for more than Red Bull, it’s Duty Free that will give you wings here! So, get experimental, be a little adventurous and try something new – a newer sub category, perhaps. For instance, if you’ve been having Scotch all this while, how about giving Hibiki or say even the Rye’s a go?

3. Break that Dollar barrier – Duty Free is one place that gives you the advantage of making some brave choices. The price difference is such that now is the time to pick the next whisky, to accentuate your taste, give your palate a new flavour to savour, that celebration or occasion a new element to relish, cherish and enjoy. Go on, grab that beauty of a bottle!

Although the new Indian travels off and on, the experience is heightened when flying during a festive season. Not only are the deals amazing, collection is of celebratory mood and makes for that perfect gift – for the family, friends, even the boss! And in case you are short on time or spoilt for choices, I shall make it easier and give you my top 5 picks of the season:

 JOHNNIE WALKER COLLECTION SET (4 X 200ml) – A collection of the four most iconic Johnnie Walker labels, released for the travel retail market. This includes the popular Black Label, Gold Label Reserve, Platinum Label and the ultimate blend, Blue Label. This makes for a great gift for any fan of Johnnie Walker. Priced at USD 115

THE DALMORE KING ALEXANDER III – This one perfect pick for the indulgent palate. A sextuple-wood bottling from Dalmore, this auspiciously-named dram was matured in wine, Madeira, Sherry, Marsala, Kentucky bourbon and Port casks. King Alexander III is a rich, fruity Highland single malt. Priced at the duty free at USD 220

GLENFIDDICH 19 Year Old (Madeira Cask Finish) – The fact that it’s 19, a variant which is not available in the domestic market and coming from a popular house of Glenfiddich makes it quite a special and exclusive gift. What makes it even more worthy is the packaging inspired by the Portuguese travellers, and the malt itself, matured in American cask, Spanish Oak casks & Madeira wine casks. It lends an aroma of ripe figs, caramelised fruit and spicy notes of cinnamon and black pepper. Priced at the duty free at USD 140

GLENMORANGIE SIGNET – This is a spirit that comes off some of the tallest stills in the business and retains a light, fruity spirit at the core. The addition of chocolate malt and careful maturation in wood builds on it further only to surprise you with a big, slightly bitter but full chocolate cake aromas and flavours. £122.99

HIBIKI 12 YEAR OLD – With Japanese whiskies being in the spotlight lately, this whisky moves the scene a bit beyond to another blend, one which is an exquisite malt from the whiskies Yamazaki & Hakushu. This whisky is partly matured in Plum liqueur barrels, bringing about a nice stewed fruits and clove studded orange mouthfeel, finishing with crisp apples, almost like a plum wine and subtle oak. The big gifting WOW is its packaging, its got a stunner of a bottle, almost like a decanter, the bottle has 24 facets to represent the 24 months in the traditional Japanese calendar. It’s an ode to the whisky’s rich Japanese heritage and for your special one this new year, quite a treat, thats if you happen to spot it at an airport !