The Travel Retail Masters 2017 results

5th October, 2017 by Nicola Carruthers

This year’s Travel Retail Masters showed that there are some exciting expressions for consumers to snap up once they get airside, with brands vying to offer travellers something different.

The travel retail category boasts a wide array of unique expressions

From extravagant expressions to exclusive variants, more spirits brands than ever are realising the potential of showcasing their products in the travel retail channel, offering travellers something new and distinctive in what has become a captivating and competitive marketplace.

Hosted at British restaurant Corrigan’s in Mayfair, this year’s Travel Retail Masters attracted entries encompassing brands from a variety of spirits categories, from vodka and gin to rum and Tequila. Judges given the task of assessing the entrants – which included travel retail exclusives and those available in both travel retail and domestic markets – were Angus Martin, whisky brands manager of Woolf Sung; Nicola Thomson, director of Fifteen71; Matt Chambers, founder of Whisky for Everyone and a freelance journalist; and Amy Hopkins, editor of The Spirits Business, who chaired the proceedings.

The first category under the spotlight was Vodka, which attracted three Gold medals. Legend of Kremlin won praise for its “lovely, fresh and vibrant” profile, while Sash & Fritz was recognised for its “slight nuttiness” and notes of “vanilla and butterscotch”. Flirt Vodka also impressed the panel with its “fresh and peppery” nose and “slight spice” on the palate.

Judges turned their attention to the vodka flight

Next up was Vodka – Travel Retail Exclusive, where OPM Vodka secured a Gold medal. Judges were taken with its “spicy lemon tart” flavour, which developed to reveal a “hint of chilli”. Reflecting on the flavours found in the two vodka rounds, the panel noted the need for expressions in the category to stand out. “I loved the different flavour components – these were quite vocal and showy in their profiles,” said Thomson. “You saw the chilli, the citrus, the creaminess. With travel retail, you want to see something a little different. I either want something really smooth and well­-rounded or something really different.”

The flight that followed, Gin – Travel Retail Exclusive, was extremely fruitful. Nordés Gin secured a Gold, and the first two Master medals of the competition were awarded to Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin and Listoke 1777 Irish Small Batch Gin – the latter of which was deemed “a classic gin that wouldn’t disappoint” by the group. Nicholas Culpeper, meanwhile, was praised for its “lovely, sweet” nose and notes of “orange peel, cumin and lots of savoury spice”. “This has some really lovely warming spices that remind me of Christmas,” said Chambers. “But there’s still plenty of juniper on the palate.” Thomson said: “It has complexity; it was layered and the length went on forever. You have the sensations of tamarind and cardamom. I think it’s a wonderful gin.” Reflecting on the overall gin category, Hopkins said: “With travel retail gin, I would be looking for an extreme style, and something exciting to bring home.”


The next flight up for scrutiny was Cognac, where Gold medallist Courvoisier Spanish Sherry Cask stood out for its “fantastic” nose and notes of “melon and parma ham”. This was followed by the Brandy flight, where two Silver medals were awarded to the “well­-balanced” Jimsher from Georgian Brandy Casks and the “light and earthy” Jimsher from Tsinandali Casks.

Next to take to the table was a flight of Brandy – Travel Retail Exclusive liquids, which yielded a Gold medal for Jimsher from Saperavi Casks. “There’s been a funky cask used that’s given it a beautiful flavour,” observed Chambers, who added, “it’s something out of the ordinary.”

Blended Scotch Whisky followed, with the incredibly well-­received Dewar’s 25 Year Old awarded a Master medal. “Any blended Scotch should look at this as the benchmark,” said Chambers. “It’s got richness, dried fruits, earthy spices, and slightly delicate peat.”

The largest flight of the day was single malt Scotch whisky

Onto the Scotch Whisky Blended – Travel Retail Exclusive flight, which saw a Silver medal awarded to Loch Lomond Signature Deluxe Blended Scotch for its “very tropical” flavours and notes of “sultana”.

The standard of Scotch on offer continued to climb as Scotch Whisky – Single Malt followed, producing two Masters, two Golds and two Silver medals. While tasting Master medallist Tomintoul 1976 Vintage Speyside Glenlivet Single Malt, Thomson praised its “great acidity, freshness and texture”. Fellow Master medallist Craigellachie 33 Years Old impressed Chambers with its “lovely waxy quality and orchard fruits flavour with spice and nutmeg”. “The balance was fantastic,” he added. The “soft and rich” Tomintoul Five Decades and the “lovely and sweet” Loch Lomond 12 Year Old were both awarded Gold medals. Silver medals were bestowed upon Glencadam Highland Single Malt Aged 13 Years and the “sweet and spicy” Glen Scotia Campbeltown 1832 Single Malt.

Then it was time to embark upon the biggest flight of the day, Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Travel Retail Exclusive, which produced nine medals in total. While Craigellachie 33 Years Old attracted its second Master of the day, a further six Golds and two Silvers were handed out. While discussing the “opulent” Craigellachie expression, Martin commended the “great rancio flavours”. “I thought it was exceptional,” he enthused. “There were lovely berry flavours and a sweet honeycomb flavour.” Glenmorangie’s Tarlogan, Tayne, Duthac and 19 Years Old expression, along with the “young and vibrant” AnCnoc Rùdhan and the “very drinkable” Glen Scotia 16 Year Old Single Malt were all awarded Gold medals. Of Glenmorangie 19 Years Old, Thomson said: “I love that it reminded me of pineapple upside­down cake. It’s got sweetness and a little bit of saltiness.” Martin praised AnCnoc Rùdhan for its “really light body – but in a good way”. “You could keep coming back to this again and again,” he added.

Summing up the Travel Retail Single Malt Scotch Whisky flight, Hopkins said: “There were some great examples here. Scotch is one of the most important categories in the whole of travel retail and producers are clearly putting their best foot forward when it comes to quality. But I would have liked to have seen some more innovation on show.”

World Whisky was the next flight to face the music, with Indian whisky brands Star Walker and All Seasons awarded Silver medals. The latter offered notes of “green apple and honey”, followed by a “sugary finish”. “These were decent Indian whisky examples and it’s great to see products like this in travel retail as it shows consumers are getting more choice,” said Chambers. Moving on to the Rum category, Bacardi’s Ron Santa Teresa 1796 – Solero Rum Single Estate Hacienda Santa Teresa attracted a Silver medal for its “caramel” flavour and “lovely long finish”.

In the Rum – Travel Retail Exclusive flight that followed, a Silver was awarded to El Ron Prohibido Gran Reserva 15, for its “fruity” nose and “hint of savoury” on the palate. “Two very different styles of rum were on display, both with their own merits and with a defined place in the market,” said Hopkins. The Tequila Blanco – Travel Retail Exclusive flight served up Gold medallist Corralejo Los Arango Blanco, with its “nice oaky character” and “delicate and peppery nose”. The Tequila Reposado – Travel Retail Exclusive round produced two medals: a Master for Corralejo Los Arango Reposado and a Gold for Tequila Corralejo 99,000 Horas. The former impressed judges with its “lovely level of spice and oakiness”. Martin observed: “You know it’s Tequila, but it takes it to a new opulent level – it’s luxurious.” Meanwhile Tequila Corralejo 99,000 Horas was lauded for its “good agave character” and “savoury finish”. In the Flavoured Tequila – Travel Retail Exclusive round, a Gold was awarded to El Diezmo Tequila Chocolate, which was celebrated for its “earthiness” and “clean mouthfeel”. The panel pressed on to a diminutive Liqueur – Travel Retail Exclusive round which saw a Master medal bestowed on Fraternity Spirits­owned chocolate liqueur brand Horus. Judges enjoyed its “rich and thick mouthfeel” and “chocolate soufflé” flavours. “It’s well integrated, and you’ve got freshness and acidity,” added Thomson. “It’s great to showcase something like this.”

Rounding off the competition was the Marketing Campaign category, where Tovaritch! received a Gold for its innovative 3D Never Drink Alone campaign. The advertisements, which featured a range of humorous images, were applauded for being “bright and clever”. “It would be sure to catch consumer attention in a travel retail environment,” said Hopkins. “The graphics are fantastic and I love that each poster tells an individual tale and evokes different environments.”

(L­R): Matt Chambers, Amy Hopkins, Nicola Thomson and Angus Martin

Looking back over the day, Hopkins praised the quality on offer: “This year’s Travel Retail Masters has really exemplified that brands are striving for both quality and innovation in their TR offerings. Judges felt the Tequila and Scotch flights were particularly strong after tasting some excellent examples of the categories at their best. Travel retail is undoubtedly a hotly contested category, but consumers are spoilt with the breadth of high-­quality spirits on offer.”

Click through the following pages to view the results tables in full.

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