If there is one thing Montréalers love to do, it is shop. Granted, residents of this vibrant, cosmopolitan and bilingual city enjoy plenty of other things such as their well-known passion for art and culture, and dining out. However, Montréal’s many department stores, fashion boutiques, antique shops and native craft markets arguably make it the shopping capital of Canada.
So has any of this retail flair found its way to the local Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport, which is located some 12 miles from the city centre and is Canada’s third largest international hub? Well, in the past decade the airport authority, Aéroports de Montréal, has certainly improved Trudeau’s retail offer as part of a long-term, C$716 (£446.8) million redevelopment programme, which is still ongoing. The airport, which handled over 12m passengers last year, now boasts an impressive 85 shops spread out across its three concourses (A, B and C).
The airport’s shopping offer is gathered together under the ‘L’Aéroshopping’ umbrella banner. It features a decent sprinkling of souvenir outlets and Canadian brands, as well as a solid duty-free anchor store in the shape of Runway Duty Free. However, there could be more shops from international brands, and local travellers frequently question whether some of the duty-free prices offer good value.
They have a point. We found several of the fragrances offered by Runway Duty Free much cheaper on the Canadian domestic market. DKNY Pure Eau de Parfum (100ml) is priced at C$90 (£56.16), for instance, but we found the popular fragrance at C$79.60 (£49.70) downtown, while Flower by Kenzo edt (50ml) is priced at C$69 (£43) in Trudeau’s duty-free, but can be had for as little as C$46.26 (£28.90) off-airport.
However, it is a different case with cigarettes even though the province of Quebec has some of the lowest tobacco taxes in Canada (a carton of 200 cigarettes had an average domestic price there of around C$70/£43.70 in 2010). At Trudeau airport there are savings to be had for smokers: a 200-stick carton of Camel King Size is priced at C$53.99 (£33.70), while Rothmans King Size Filter and Benson & Hedges Gold King Size both cost C$60 (£37.45).
Attractive savings can also be had on wines and spirits. Why not try a bottle of Canadian whisky, which is generally made from a blend of corn, grain and rye whiskies? Canadian whiskies tend to be light, well-balanced but with a full flavour and are great in classic cocktails such as a Manhattan. A bottle of Crown Royal Limited Edition costs C$30.95 (£19.30), but for the same price why not try something a little different with a bottle of Sortilege Erable, a delicious maple syrup-infused Canadian whisky liqueur?
The other must-buy in this part of the duty-free store is Canadian ice wine, a sweet dessert wine, which is made from grapes naturally frozen on the vine to a temperature of at least -8C. Producing ice wine is a risky and costly business. If the cold winter frosts come too late, the grapes will rot on the vines and be eaten by wild animals. If the freeze is too severe, however, no juice can be squeezed from the grapes.
Add into the equation a slower-than-normal fermentation process and you can begin to understand why Canadian ice wine costs so much. On the other hand, there is nothing else quite like it and it is quite difficult to find outside Canada. Inniskillin is one of the most popular ice wine brands on the market. Expect to pay around C$57 (£35.60) for a 37.5cl bottle and remember to savour every last drop.
You will find the two duty-free stores in the international Concourse B at Gate 52, and in Concourse C, which is reserved for US-bound flights, at Gate 75. Runway Duty Free operates an easy-to-use bilingual website, www.montrealdutyfree.ca
, where passengers can pre-order their purchase before they travel.