High flyers - single malts in travel retail

18 July, 2014

Four new expressions are to be released: Mortlach Rare Old, Mortlach 18 Year Old, Mortlach 25 Year Old and a travel retail-exclusive Mortlach Special Strength.

White says: “Three of these variants – Mortlach Special Strength, Mortlach 18 Year Old and Mortlach 25 Year Old – will be available in the travel retail channel and aimed at super-deluxe whisky shoppers, businessmen and male travellers in their late 30s who seek rarity and quality in their whisky.”

Highland Park is another fast-growing single malt brand, which has taken the exclusive route to gaining a bigger presence in travel retail.

Last February the Orkney-based brand unveiled the first three expressions in its new The Warrior Series collection – a range of exclusive NAS whiskies inspired by key characters in Orkney’s Viking history. Each reference is differentiated by the quantity of European oak sherry seasoned casks used as the range progresses upwards in price.

The first three expressions launched – Einar, Svein and Harald – all won gold medals at the Scotch Whisky Masters Awards in 2013 with the trio also picking up medals at the sixth IWSC, most notably a gold for the entry-level Svein.

A few months later at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes in October the final three whiskies in the collection –Sigurd, Ragnvald and Thorfinn – were launched to complete the range. Sitting at the top of the collection, €400 (£325) Ragnvald and €1,000 (£812) Thorfinn are both presented in decorative wooded boxes with plenty of Norse and Viking references.

Commercial success

Underlining the commercial success of Highland Park’s decision to invest in a permanent travel retail range rather than a series of one-off releases, Glen Williams, managing director of Maxxium Travel Retail (MTR), the brand’s European travel retail distributor, revealed the first three expressions in The Warrior Series had quickly become one of “Maxxium’s most successful travel retail launches ever”, exceeding MTR’s own internal expectations.

Given its high-profile ‘shop window’ status and proven growth track record, travel retail is an arena single malt brands are eager to enter.

However, travel retail can be a difficult nut to crack for smaller players or newcomers with limited advertising and promotion budgets. Consider the case of the Isle of Arran distillery, an independent company founded in 1995 and now rapidly expanding, selling its whiskies to more than 40 countries worldwide. Sales were up 30% by value and 20% by volume last year.

Despite this growth and the brand’s ambitions to grow in markets such as Latin America, The Arran Malt’s duty free presence is currently limited to just the specialist World of Whiskies stores of Heathrow, Gatwick, Aberdeen and Edinburgh airports. With 70% operator margins routine, managing director Euan Mitchell admits it’s hard to make the numbers add up in a bull market.

“The margin requirements of the duty free operators make it a difficult area for us to focus on as we have a limited amount of stock to sell,” he explains. “As our stock grows in the future I would like to see us putting more emphasis on this area as it is effectively a shop window to the world.”

Luke Tegner, brands and marketing director at Berry Bros & Rudd, which owns The Glenrothes single malt whisky, says it is crucial to produce a differentiated whisky range from what is available on the domestic market. Last May The Glenrothes did just that, releasing its Manse Brae range, comprising three NAS expressions ranging in price from £33 to £115.

Digital Edition

Drinks International digital edition is available ahead of the printed magazine. Don’t miss out, make sure you subscribe today to access the digital edition and all archived editions of Drinks International as part of your subscription.


Tess Posthumus

The Great Tipping Debate

Tipping can be a difficult subject in the bar industry. As a bar owner, bartender and regular consumer, I see it from every perspective and it can be tricky to get right.