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Top 10 award-winning travel retail spirits

Competition is fierce in the global travel retail channel with plenty of high-quality and distinctive spirits on offer. We present the products that walked away with the top medals from our latest taste test.

SB presents Master-winning bottlings from this year’s Travel Retail Masters competition

The Spirits Business held its annual Travel Retail Masters last month. The blind tasting sought to uncover top-quality spirits available in the global travel retail channel, awarding Silver, Gold and Master medals.

The competition was held in a new format due to Covid-19 with the judges tasting the expressions in their own homes to maintain physical distancing. As with a number of our competitions this year, Wine Sorted packed and sent the bottles anonymously to judges’ houses to ensure the expressions were tasted blindly.

The competition was judged by Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, David T Smith, spirits writer and founder of the Craft Distilling Expo, and Bernadette Pamplin, spirits writer and judge.

The tasting was open to all spirits brands available in travel retail, spanning categories such as Scotch whisky, gin, Tequila and liqueurs.

We present the products that were given the top accolade of Master during the tasting, along with tasting notes and prices.

Click through the following pages to see 10 of the highest-scoring bottlings from this year’s competition. 

Littlemill Vintage 1992

Price: £3,000 (US$3,900)

Littlemill Vintage 1992 secured the top Master award in a flight of Scotch whiskies for flavours of “candied ginger, raisins, stewed apples and a hint of dark chocolate”.

Bottled by Loch Lomond Group, the limited edition Littlemill Vintage 1992 comes from three casks. Every bottle is numbered and comes with a 50ml vial.

The silent Littlemill distillery is thought to be one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, dating back to 1772.

Vidda Tørr gin

Price: £37 (US$48)

The Gin round saw a Master medal go to Oslo Håndverksdestilleri’s Vidda Tørr Gin. One judge described it as having aromas of “citrus on the nose” leading to an “oily texture and a little sweetness” on the palate.

“It was full of meadowsweet,” the judge said. “The first thing is immediately in the glass there is so much intensity coming through, floral, spicy, cinnamon, vanilla, it’s very complex. The texture is smooth, then you get more of that floral taste, some spice, then it builds to pine, cedar and juniper towards the end – so you know it’s still gin.

“The big flash of intensity catches your attention, like a showcase gin, which I think you want from a travel retail gin, but it still shows what gin should be.”

Glen Scotia Vintage 1991

Price: £395 (US$514)

Glen Scotia Vintage 1991 also picked up a Master medal in the Scotch round, hailed for being “very elegant” with “raisin sweetness, cherries and a gentle, mellow smoke”.

Bottled at 46.7% ABV, Glen Scotia 1991 Vintage has been matured exclusively in Bourbon casks.

Corralejo Añejo Tequila

Price: £35 (US$45.50)

A flight of Tequila saw a Master medal go to Corralejo Añejo Tequila. One member of the panel found this to be “subtle on the nose, but with really lovely flavour on the palate”.

Tasting notes included a “surge of aniseed/ absinthe vibes, menthol, wormwood bitterness. Complex, lovely and interesting”.

The expression was matured for 12 months in new, charred American oak barrels.

Big Peat Global Travellers’ Edition

Price: £50 (US$65)

Douglas Laing’s Big Peat Global Travellers’ Exclusive was deemed Master‐worthy during the Scotch tasting. It presented notes of “smoked cheese and smoky bacon – powerful but balanced by some dark chocolate notes”.

The expression was launched as part of Douglas Laing’s travel retail-exclusive series: Remarkable Regional Malts Global Travellers Editions. It is bottled at 48% ABV and packaged in a one-litre bottle with a gift tube.

Coole Swan

Price: 25 (US$30) 

During a tasting of liqueurs, the panel bestowed a Master medal on Coole Swan from Ireland.

The judges said it was “rich, creamy and decadent, with hints of strawberry and white chocolate”. One judge also noted the cream liqueur had good alcohol integration and “great texture”.

The 16% ABV liqueur is a blend of single malt Irish whiskey, white chocolate and fresh dairy cream.

Scallywag Global Travellers’ Exclusive

Price: N/A

The second Douglas Laing bottling to win a Master medal in the Scotch round was Scallywag Global Travellers’ Exclusive. This was described as “so complex. Rich, juicy with raisins and cherries and toasted almonds – sublime.”

Like the Big Peat bottling, the Scallywag expression is also part of the Remarkable Regional Malts Global Travellers Editions. It is bottled at 48% ABV.

Royal Mash Vodka

Price: £38.50 (US$50)

During the Vodka flight, Royal Mash secured a Master medal after it was praised for its “dark roasted grain notes, rye bread and little citrus”.

Bottled at 40% ABV, Royal Mash is an ultra-premium vodka produced from potatoes.

Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1995

Price: £666 (US$867)

The Glenmorangie Company took home a Master in the Scotch whisky round for Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1995 with its “rich fruity nose, a little Sherry” and “plump fruity flavours, some oat and golden syrup”.

The cask strength (59.6% ABV) Glenmorangie bottling comes from a single Bourbon cask. The product also grabbed the top accolade of Taste Master following a retaste of all the Master medallists at the end of the competition.

Lithuanian Vodka Original

Price: £10 (US$13)

Lithuanian Vodka Original was the second Master medallist in the Vodka round, praised for being “simple, elegant and easy to sip”.

Produced in Lithuania, the vodka is purified through a silver filter. It is recommended served mixed with juice or used as the base in cocktails.

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