Providing you are flying outside the EU (even if you start your journey within it) you can benefit from duty free prices on wine and spirits. That means no local taxes or duties and for many travellers it’s still what travel shopping is really all about! Incidentally, outside the EU means that The Canary Islands, Channel Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey are all ‘OK’!
The first thing to remember when purchasing is that most brands are sold in litre bottles, which are over 40% larger than the normal 70cl high street size. Additionally, some spirits are sold at a higher export strength, so you cannot always compare like for like. However, significant savings over the local domestic market price are guaranteed!
Airports, airlines and ferries are constantly offering additional promotions on top of the duty free price; such as "2 for £15" or "2 for £20" on leading spirits and liquors. These can offer exceptional savings, but make sure you remain inside your allowance.
Remember, too, that security regulations today now mean that if your final destination requires you to transit enroute (eg go via another airport), you may be in danger of your duty free alcohol (or perfume) being confiscated when you board your second flight. This does not apply to passengers transferring within the EU on the same day, providing the liquid is in a sealed plastic bag containing the receipt. Consquently you may be safer purchasing alcohol at your transit airport or, where facilities exist, on arrival; please remember to check at departure. (Please refer to information elsewhere on this website.)
The choice of liquor these days is phenomenal with an increasing number of specialist shops offering premium, limited edition, niche lines and exclusive products and presentations. You’ll also find a growing selection of quality wines on offer. It may come as no surprise, however, to discover that whiskies (Scotch or otherwise), remain the number one selling spirit globally, accounting for half of all duty free sales with Johnnie Walker, Chival Regal and Ballantines the best selling brands. However, choice wise, it seems we just can’t get enough!
It’s true to say that the range of whiskies you’ll find at an airport depends quite a lot on the percentage of business travellers using it - as they are the people most likely to buy! So the more laptop cases being carried around, the better choice of whiskies you’ll find. Frankfurt, for example, sells whisky in 15 shops throughout the airport and offers over 100 different brands.
World Duty Free’s The World of Whiskies stores, for example, offer a superb collection of over 350 fine whiskies from around the world. They can be found at Gatwick, Heathrow (T1,2,5), Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stanstead airports. Or if you happen to find yourself at Brussels airport, Pier A, the Epicure shop specialises in malt whisky (150 brands), along with some 80 Champagnes, over 300 wines and Cuban cigars. Even with malts, you’ll find special price promotions such as an additional 10-20% off.
The Far East is known as a ‘dark spirits’ market, where premium brands are much in demand, so you’ll always find an extensive choice of whiskies and Cognacs at airports in this region - some priced way way out of the reach of the average traveller!
There’ll be less choice in white spirits (vodka, gin, white rum, tequila etc) in the East than the West, but the range is improving - especially in premium and super premium categories. Yes, in the same way that travellers will often use the price savings to ‘trade up’ from a standard blend to a malt whisky, more and more of us are similarly using the opportunity to swap from our standard bottle of vodka to something a bit more upmarket. And the choice and range these days can be a little bewildering!
Purity and quality of spirit, beautiful/unusual/unique bottle designs and packaging, (in some cases) historical and heritage values - together create the term ‘super premium’, with price tags to match. Traditionally perceived as a masculine purchase, increasingly, you will see bottle designs targeted at women, such as U’Luvka and Pinky vodkas.
Because you’re in an international environment, chances are you’ll find a greater choice of brands and references than at your local supermarket or liquor store. Might be a good opportunity to try a flavoured vodka, for example, and there are loads to choose from these days - mango, cranberry, grapefruit, vanilla, to name a few - or perhaps something a little quirky and unusual like Hendrick’s gin, designed to be drunk with a slice of cucumber rather than lemon! If you’re open to experiment, make time to enjoy the increasing number of sampling stations and tasting bars appearing at larger airports where different brands such as these can be tried for free.
A real plus point about buying liquor whilst travelling is the chance to buy exclusive products - eg lines that you cannot find anywhere else. Examples include Absolut Masquerade vodka - the well known premium brand wrapped in a glittering, spangly red zipped jacket; The Balvenie GoldenCask 14 year old single malt whisky; the Jack Daniels ‘Scenes from Lynchburg’ duty free collectors range; and Belvedere Intense vodka. You might also find lines that are exclusive to a specific airport; to celebrate Dubai Duty Free’s 25th anniversary, for example, the airport was offering an exclusive Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky Private Vintage.