BAA BAA Whisky

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

BAA BAA Whisky
BAA BAA Whisky

Who would have thought there was a positive to BAA airports? Today (Wednesday) I found a definite one. Expecting the worst for security-check time I appeared at Heathrow nice and early, only to walk through to the terror-free inner sanctum with barely a halt. Not sure what to do with more than an hour in a terminal I wandered duty-free outlets until I found Whiskies of the World. On the lookout for my favourite, Lavavulin 16yo, I soon attracted sales staff… it wasn’t long before I parted with 70 quid in exchange for two litres of the golden spirit, not the old favourite 16yo though. [“old favourite”, heh – I’ve only been interested in whisky for about a year, mostly thanks to the lyrical waxing of James and Matt.]

Considering that a bottle of good whisky at Tesco prices is 35 quid (Lagavulin 16yo) I think this turned out fairly well. Especially since what I actually got was a Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition (£41.99) and a Laphroaig Quarter Cask (£29.99). Before I left, Michael (sales guy) pointed out that if I went to their other outlet, at the other end of Terminal 1, I could taste the Laphroaig. So go there I did, and it was a great way to while away the next 45 minutes. The guy in charge there, Raj, was extremely helpful and informative. He and his off-sider (a 20yo law student who made me feel rather old) introduced me to a few whiskies, though I kept it to a conservative 4 tastings.

BAA departure terminal 1, Heathrow: the place to go whisky tasting! Who’da thunk it? They seriously must have had more than 50 whiskies available for sampling. I tried the same distiller’s edition labels of Cragganmore and Talisker – my preference order is:

  1. Laphroaig Quarter Cask
  2. Cragganmore Distillers Edition
  3. Talisker Distillers Edition
  4. Other one I forgot the name of :-/

An interesting point is that, in the normal labels, I rate Cragganmore and Talisker the other way around. The port oak the Cragganmore has been aged in seems to leap-frog it over the equivalent Talisker (Amoroso Sherry cask), it was divine! Ultimately the Laphroaig wins hands-down though. The Lagavulin I can’t rate yet since it wasn’t available for tasting. I’m hoping for an excellent double-whammy with it and the Laphroaig… I’ll find out when I get back into the UK! The tastings were educational, the flavour of each whisky had very similar features to the equivalent “regular” whisky I’m familiar with but extended/deepened by the extra cask time.

This whole duty-free game seems somewhat of a scam – you can buy duty-free on your way out and then pick up your goods on your way back in. If you travel regularly between the UK and EU this is certainly the way to buy your alcohol! What’s more, the guys from these shops aren’t aware of any restrictions on the volume. They know people who’ll take a trip across to Paris just so they can pick up a couple of cases of very expensive champagne at duty-free prices. There are restrictions when bringing alcohol in via air (10 litres of spirit, 80 litres of wine – including fortified; makes Australia seem positively shitty about the whole thing — however the numbers given to me at the airport don’t 100% match what’s on the Heathrow website). These restrictions don’t apply when you’re buying in Heathrow and then picking up on the way back.

On the topic of that which I first sought: they don’t actually supply Lagavulin 16yo. An interesting story there too, essentially they can’t sell it because Tesco does. Since nobody has the buying power and economies of scale to match Tesco it’s simply not worth selling a premium spirit that they’ve added to their line, even at duty-free prices. So the Whiskies of the World guys tell me.

For bonus entertainment, while I was there Jim Murray showed up … just passing through and he thought he’d sign a few copies of his latest bible for them. He even rearranged them so they were in front of all the other books on display. When he first showed up he told a sales guy he wanted to buy 20 copies of his book, the poor dude didn’t recognise him (I think he can probably be forgiven!) but Raj recognised him immediately and “got the joke” (they’d clearly met previously).

I was genuinely impressed by how friendly and knowledgeable the staff at Whiskies of the World were (especially knowing I wasn’t there to buy anything, I’d already done by buying). Of course, since my own knowledge of whisky is decidedly limited, I can only assume they knew what they were talking about 🙂