Three great whiskies to buy duty-free

By Martin Eber, January 12 2016
Three great whiskies to buy duty-free

One of the many delights of travel is the ability to stock up on some amazing whisky – or whiskey, if you insist on the US spelling!

But it's not just about the dizzying array of brands and blends, nor the outright value of buying overseas or duty-free compared to what you'd usually pay at home.

There are also several of the best whiskies sold only at airport duty-free stores, as exclusives to the 'travel retail' market.

While some of those go for more marketing bling and style over substance, the vast majority of them are interesting, quality whiskies.

So on your next trip, resist reaching for another bottle of your favourite spirit and consider some of these unique and exclusively duty-free whiskies?

Kininvie 17

Nestled between its more famous siblings Glenfiddich and The Balvenie (both geographically and in terms of flavour), Kininvie is an fascinating little Scottish distillery.

Just a few years ago, with very few exceptions, you could find Kininvie only in blended whiskies such as Grants.

That all changed in 2013 when Kininvie was released as a single malt whisky – that is, a whisky made from malted barley from only one distillery – for the travel retail market.

While the 23 year old expression is now available through selected bottle shops, the 17 year old remains by and large a travel retail exclusive.

Sold in a convenient 350mL bottle, with a sturdy box that's perfect for those with limited luggage space, Kininvie 17 exhibits a delicate sweetness, with notes of apples, toffee and honey, with a slight (and pleasant) earthiness to wrap things up. 

Hibiki Japanese Harmony Master's Select

Japanese whisky is absolutely having a moment right now, with prices skyrocketing and stock flying off the shelves around the world.

The popularity of the aged expressions in particular, and resulting stock shortages, has led to companies like Suntory releasing new, “non age statement” (NAS) whiskies, allowing them build a certain flavour profile without being bound to a particular age.

One such NAS release is Hibiki Japanese Harmony – a delightful blended whisky housed in one of the most stunning bottles you’ll ever see.

Whilst readily found in regular retail shops, the Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” is limited to airport duty-free outlets. It features a little honey, some pineapple notes, some notes of sherry and even a little spice courtesy of its (somewhat rare) partial maturation in Japanese Oak.

It's a delightful sipping whisky in a bottle you’ll be happy to display.

Laphroaig PX Cask

Last but never ever least is Laphroaig PX Cask, from the Scottish Isle of Islay – a region famous for smoky, powerful peated whiskies.

The Laphroaig distillery has just celebrated its 200 anniversary, and while well known for a stream of limited releases – many through travel retail only – it’s hard to go past the old stalwart PX Cask, still generally only found in duty free shops.

The 'Laphy PX' doesn’t feature an age statement: but don’t let that put you off, because age isn’t everything. It's built around a beautiful, rich sweetness, with notes of Christmas cake and glacé cherries (due to its maturation in sherry casks), along with trademark "medicinal” smokiness.

While not a drop for the faint-hearted, this is a big whisky which one that quickly grows on a lot of people.

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Martin Eber

Martin is the founding editor of, a leading blog for lovers of the dram with tasting notes, events, bar reports, new releases and more.

Qantas - QFF Platinum

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 211

Just picked up a Hibiki 17 year at Haneda earlier this month to go alongside my 12 year. You certainly can tell Japanese whisky's are in vogue when the first two stores you visit are sold out of basically anything Japanese. The third had a small range remaining thanks to its sub-prime retail location. 

Had the Harmony (non Masters Select) whilst in Japan and it is fantastic, all for approx $45 AUD. 


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 352

Great recommendations! And surprisingly the Laphroaig PX Cask is actually cheaper here than in the USA, it's $100 at SYD duty-free and US$110 at LAX!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Mar 2015

Total posts 2

Hi Mal, was that at the international or domestic terminal in Sydney?  Thanks.


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 352

SYD International, because there is no duty-free shop at the domestic terminals.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 134

Happy New Year to all at ABT. And thanks for this interesting read. As an aside, travellers to the USA may find that prices in regular shops are cheaper than duty free in both USA departing airports and Oz arrivals airports. Just means you run the risk of brakage in storing inside checked baggage of course. But some real bargains!

12 Jan 2016

Total posts 13

Whisky (Scottish spelling). Whiskey (Irish spelling).


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1519

Japanese whisky? Thanks, I rather choose something else.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

Just came accross this article, nice! Kininvie actually uses the masher and washbacks at Balvenie (they are dedicated ones though). Only distilling is done at their own premises (which is next to balvenie).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 May 2016

Total posts 11

Thanks KG! You're absolutely right - we visited Balvenie last year and saw the Kininvie washbacks etc.. in there, right next to the Balvenie washbacks. :)

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