Duty Free Part 2: Shiny, Sexy Bottles

The open sarcophagus holding a millennia-old mummy. The complete, gigantic but not entirely authentic T. Rex skeleton. Rocks brought back from the Moon. Suits of armour. All fond boyhood memories from a trip to the museum. Items of age and wonder that capture the young imagination, turning the frenetic youngster’s mind to one of awe and contemplation. Sure, museums are still pretty cool but there’s somewhere else that similarly fires the mind…

For all the disparaging I did last post regarding the state of duty free, there is one thing that the outlets in the larger airports excel at, and that’s ostentation. The busier the airport -translate as ‘the greater the amount of money flowing through it’- the fancier the bottles, the softer the lighting and, exponentially, the higher the price tags. It’s almost like they’re trying to outdo each other by showing off whose is bigger. Ahem. Whose age statement is bigger.

The bottle envy aside, a good, extensive duty free shop can in many ways be just like a museum. Priceless (we’ll, certainly out of my price range but up to a couple orders of magnitude) antiquities put on high-security display for the world to admire. Cultural artifacts that capture the imagination of those who appreciate whisky, evoking awe, wonder and a fleeting mental image of how one of these bottles might look centered on the top shelf of our collection.

So, in no particular order, here are a few gems I’ve seen in the last six months.


A lovely 40-year old Balvenie. Note the soft lighting.
A lovely 40-year old Balvenie. Note the soft lighting.
A heavy-weight in a Lalique crystal bottle.
A heavy-weight in a Lalique crystal bottle.
Older still. Only 30 bottles of this one.
Older still. Only 30 bottles of this one.

And the pièce de résistance, seen at Changi airport, Singapore:

Whoa. Click to enlarge.

Are any of these a good deal? I mean, that’s why I’m writing this blog, right? Considering that some of these bottles have a world-wide inventory of less than 50, I hardly think that price comparing is relevant or appropriate. Just to keep things on track though, at Changi where I saw the epic Highland Park display I bought a Hakushu 12 for $SIN 90 or about $CAD 82. For a bottling that is both a Suntory whisky with an age statement, and perpetually out-of-stock in Canada and the US, this was a good deal.

Happy foraging!


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Whisky Forager

I collect whisky. I like good prices for whisky. Living in Toronto doesn’t often allow for both but I'm lucky enough to travel a lot for work. I get to shop around for whisky and I want to share the good buying opportunities that I come across. That’s the premise. I’m not writing about tasting or grading whisky, there’s plenty of other sources for those opinions. I just want to share opportune finds for quality bottles at below market prices. A couple of years ago after discovering a pricing discrepancy at LCBO that provided a few deeply discounted bottles for my collection, I realized that there are lots of opportunities to purchase good single malts at a discount price. And not just outside of Canada but also sometimes in Ontario. It may be hard to believe, but the LCBO can be your ally just as often as it’s your nemesis. This is not a commercial site, I only share my finds based on my own opinions of good prices and good bottles.

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