Feed on
Posts
Comments

RetailHall5 blog

The broad, open spaces of the Retail Hall at the new-look JFK Terminal 4

As the only independent operator of an airport terminal in the USA, JFKIAT is used to thinking differently. That’s underlined by the transformation of Terminal 4 at New York JFK – a project where phase one opened in May 2013 and that continues with a rolling series of store openings – which The Moodie Report is visiting this week.

It was a project accelerated by the arrival of Delta (previously an occupant of terminals 2 and 3), a move that overnight doubled passenger numbers at T4 from 8 million to around 16 million – but an upgrade that was badly needed in any case. The principal driver from a commercial viewpoint was to move most of the activity in the terminal from landside to airside – a move that is paying off handsomely in terms of dwell times, conversion and average spends. [More of this in a forthcoming major article on T4 and its concessionaires.]

DFS_Beauty1 JFK blog

And it’s not just about the numbers: the experience here is a step up on what went before, but also on most North American terminals. The traveller arrives through security down into a central core of retail, split by a wide thoroughfare with the core categories on either side. DFS has stepped up here with a terrific execution. Not only does it feature the retailer’s location branding, but the images on the store fronts – iconic scenes from New York – add emphasis to the Sense of Place. Its beauty store (above) is a real highlight, notably in the fragrances department, which houses names you’ll struggle to find at any other airport, from Kilian to Diptyque to New York’s own Bond No. 9.

Swarovski_HugoBoss blog

Swarovski and Hugo Boss at T4

The traveller then encounters speciality retail – with brands such as Coach, Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret, Swarovski, Hugo Boss, Tumi and others as you head towards either A or B gates, and that’s followed by food & beverage, which has some of the most outstanding concepts within the terminal, courtesy of SSP. The Palm is always a pleasure to visit, with its consistent quality of food and service, Le Grand Comptoir is a stunning piece of in-terminal architecture and we loved Uptown Brasserie, the kind of unit that encourages you to sit and watch the world go by, and even makes you forget you’re at an airport.

UptownBrasserie__blog

Uptown Brasserie: one of many F&B highlights

But there’s more too: Camden Food Co has been a revelation, notes the SSP team (we have been meeting with all of the key concessionaires this week), as has Shake Shack, whose resonance with the US consumer you have to witness to understand – it’s a phenomenon. And to come are what should be a brilliant new street food concept, a Caviar House plus a new coffee concept, Flat Iron.

There’s plenty more besides: a fantastic new electronics concept from BluWire (Pacific Gateway Concessions); Hudson’s hugely successful news to books to gifts concept, first introduced in its current format here at T4; XpresSpa’s inviting spa booths – another staple of the US airport market that could make a big impact overseas too (it is only at Amsterdam Schiphol outside the US currently); and a terrific store from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (below).

TheMet__blog

The latter is one of many examples of Sense of Place here – which comes otherwise principally through the F&B concepts and chef partnerships – and if there’s any terminal that should showcase New York to the world, T4 is it. Where the other JFK terminals are airline-operated, with a handful of carriers at each, T4 houses not only Delta – which is making this its New York hub – but many of the wold’s great airlines, serving routes to all regions, with a big emphasis on Asia and the Middle East, as well as Europe.

As CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff told me this week, JFKIAT’s goal is to make T4 the best airport terminal in the New York system. We think it’s already a reference point for the rest – and crucially one that delivers a memorable and varied experience for the visitor.

It’s not only the executions that make this project stand out though. Instead of taking the option to tender its prime spaces in a fast-growing terminal, JFKIAT chose to remain faithful to its long-term tenants here. That’s not simply because of those long-term relationships, it’s because each of its partners had a track record of delivering for many years through good times and (as with 9/11 and other occasions) bad times too. And they are challenged to deliver here once again, but with the aid of a collaborative, hands-on airport partner. It’s a model that avoids the costly auction system, and that makes a virtue of taking the long-term view. And based on the results – we’ll bring you full details soon – it’s a model that’s working.

Leave a Reply

through_me_a_smile_500

“I’m sick of having needles stuck into me,” Lucy told them. “I don’t want to be prodded and poked any more. I want to go home…” – From ‘Throw me a Smile’ by Colleen Mortzou

If you’re looking for a different kind of gift for someone special this Christmas, or if you just want some holiday reading, I have the perfect choice.

I [not The Moodie Report] have just published a book called ‘Throw me a Smile’ and it’s very special to me.

Let me tell you why. One, it’s written by The Moodie Report Special Correspondent Colleen Morgan [Mortzou] who I’ve known since we were 13 year-old schoolkids in Christchurch, New Zealand way back in 1969 (in the picture below Colleen is second from left in the front row; I am in there too though I very much doubt you will recognise me – to enter a draw for a free copy of the book signed by Colleen, tell me which one is me via Martin@TheMoodieReport headed ‘You haven’t changed a bit’),  and who now lives on Rhodes in Greece. Two, it’s about an individual who inspired me, nothing less, to beat cancer back in 2010.

3f1

Here’s from the cover blurb: “In the summer of 2001, Lucy Mortzou was a bouncy blonde seven-year-old having fun with her family and friends in the Greek islands. By the end of that year she was hospitalised and starting the fight of her life against an aggressive and rare form of cancer.

“Throw Me a Smile is the true story of Lucy’s battle to survive, told in diary entries and personal recollections by the mother who stayed by her side – navigating life in clinics and hospitals, enduring difficult treatments, and making and losing friends in the cancer wards of Athens. This is a compelling tale of ten months that would change their lives forever, which reveals with honesty and compassion the harsh realities of childhood cancer.”

Lucy was seven years of age then. She’s now 20 (pictured below). She won that battle. Against all the odds she has grown up to be a healthy  young woman. Vivacious. Intelligent. Determined (that wouldn’t surprise you would it?). Delightful. Amazing.

1621845_800716173305263_8463468528609600412_n

Her Mum’s pretty special too and having proofed the book and edited some of it, I can also testify to the quality of Throw me a Smile. Don’t be put off by the apparently grim subject matter, every parent’s nightmare. It’s an uplifting book, a tale of courage, a tale of love.

Colleen and Lucy

Bringing it all even closer to home is the fact that Throw me a Smile has been project managed and edited by another friend and Moodie Report colleague in New Zealand, Peter Dowling. An unstoppable all-Kiwi collaboration.

It’s available from Flying Kiwi Publishing Company for UK£9.99/EUR12.60/US$14.99 plus postage & packaging (UK£3.50; Europe EUR5.90; USA/Rest of World US$9.95). A percentage of proceeds is being donated to Elpida, the Association of Friends of Children with Cancer (www.elpida.org)

Let me know by e-mail (Martin@TheMoodieReport.com) headed ‘Throw me a Smile if you’d like to order a copy and I’ll let you know how to proceed. I’m delighted to say that thanks to the kindness of Colm McLoughlin and Saba Tahir, Throw me a Smile has been listed by Dubai Duty Free’s books department.

I’ll let the author have the final word via a concluding exerpt from the book, which poignantly notes that while some, like Lucy, beat this disease, others do not: I was at work when Stella called. Brave perky Stella, pregnant with another baby after all she had been through with little Panayiotis. “I thought you would want to know, knowing how close you are to Smaro,” she said.

I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I wanted to close the phone.

“Dimitri died today. Colleen, are you there? Did you hear me?”

Dimitri wasn’t the last of our friends to die. We lost Magda, Antony, Alexandro, Vasa, and other children from the hostel, from the clinic.

They have all gone. Lucy is here.

Leave a Reply

I swallowed a moon made of iron
They refer to it as a nail
I swallowed this industrial sewage, these unemployment documents
Youth stooped at machines die before their time
I swallowed the hustle and the destitution
Swallowed pedestrian bridges, life covered in rust
I can’t swallow any more
All that I’ve swallowed is now gushing out of my throat
Unfurling on the land of my ancestors
Into a disgraceful poem.

This evocative poem, written by 24 year-old Chinese migrant worker Xu Lizhi, appeared in The Washington Post a couple of weeks ago. His anguish and utter despair are undeniable, and nine months after penning that poem, Xu threw himself out of his dormitory building in Shenzhen, China, where he was one of over a million people working in the factories of Foxconn. What’s even more disturbing is that Xu wasn’t the first to take his life because of poor working conditions; in 2010 alone, 18 employees attempted suicide.

The article was published on 12 November, the day before I was supposed to fly to Bangkok, Thailand, to visit – uncannily I might add – Pandora’s jewellery manufacturing facilities. Harrowing images of sweatshops came to mind as I recalled the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last April which killed over 1,100 factory workers and offered little recourse to survivors. Asia, for all its economic prosperity, is notorious for its human rights violations – such is the curse of success.

rana_plaza_building_collapse

The Rana Plaza disaster reflects the failure of multinational companies to provide safe working conditions for its factory workers

Will this curse also befall Pandora, arguably one of the biggest success stories in the jewellery industry today? Founded in 1982 by Per Enevoldsen and his wife Winnie, Pandora had its beginnings in a small jeweller’s shop in Copenhagen, Denmark. Their desire to offer women across the world a universe of high quality, hand-finished and modern jewellery products at affordable prices led them to Thailand, where they began manufacturing jewellery in 1989. The launch of Pandora’s signature charm bracelet collection, Moments, in 2000 catapulted the brand to international success, and the ensuing years saw exponential growth.

Today Pandora is sold through approximately 10,000 points of sale (including 1,200 concept stores) in over 80 countries across six continents, recording a total revenue of DKK 9.0 billion (€1.2 billion) in 2013. Its crafting facilities in Gemopolis, Bangkok’s jewellery district, employs about 8,000 workers. I mentally braced myself for what I would discover, but I was excited too: it was the first time I’ve ever visited a jewellery factory and I was eager to learn.

The day before the factory tour, I met with Pandora Vice President Group CSR Claus Teilmann Petersen who acknowledged that the jewellery industry had a “murky” reputation. “The movie Blood Diamond, while a great movie, certainly did not do us any favours!” he joked.

blood_diamond

Blood Diamond: the bane of Claus Petersen’s existence (also known as the movie that Leonardo Dicaprio should’ve won as Oscar for)

The ethical sourcing of its core jewellery materials, however, is something that Pandora takes very seriously. For Pandora, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not a marketing gimmick; it runs in the veins of the company (read the main story here), as encapsulated in its CSR and compliance programme, Pandora Ethics. An internal CSR Steering Committee, headed by Claus, ensures that Pandora lives up to the strictest ethical standards.

“Our founder wanted to show that you could do industrial jewellery in a responsible way and that it would pay off. This is his heritage that we are trying to hold on to as we see an explosion in the number of staff,” Claus explained. “When I joined Pandora four years ago, we had 3,500 [people working in the factory]. At the end 2013, we had 6,000 – up 2,000 from the year before – and this year we have grown by another 2,000.”

Those are mind-boggling numbers, but as I witnessed the next day when we finally arrived at Pandora Production Thailand (PPT), Pandora doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk too.

PPT_welcome

A warm and personalised welcome from Pandora Production Thailand

My first impression was the sheer size of the entire compound. Gemopolis Industrial Estate is home to 145 companies from 28 countries, and PPT moved here in 2003 and opened its first large-scale, four-storey, fully-owned crafting facility two years later. Today PPT owns no less than eight buildings – at the heart of this is the state-of-the-art Innovation Centre opened in 2013 – and a shuttle service is available for bringing Pandora employees from one building to another.

Transportation is also provided beyond the factory premises, with PPT chartering up to 100 buses a day (70 for day shift workers and 30 for the night shift) to take workers – many of whom live in villages outside Bangkok – to and from work.

PPT_compound

Pandora Production Thailand: a second home to 8,000 workers

We arrived in the midst of HROD (Human Resources & Organizational Development) Day celebrations (below), with booths for games and food, as well as live performances. The atmosphere was lively and everyone was warm and welcoming; even the typically stony-faced security officers had smiles that could light up a room.

PPT_HROD_day

Pandora Visual Merchandising & Training Manager Andrea Lancaster puts her game face on for Pandora Production Thailand’s HROD Day

Speaking of rooms, my first surprise upon entering the factory building was the fact that almost every single room was air-conditioned. Workers were clad in safety goggles and smart red uniforms; there were even specially designed attire for pregnant employees.

Pandora’s jewellery is designed by an in-house design team in Copenhagen and the prototype created at PPT, where it is produced and hand-finished by the highly skilled workers. Each piece of jewellery passes through at least 12 different departments and 25-35 pairs of hands, undergoing 20 processes, from assembly, grinding and polishing, to stone setting and quality control. The meticulous attention to detail is staggering, and even more so if you consider the fact that 79 million jewellery pieces were produced in 2013.

Each worker undergoes seven months of training, and it was a real privilege to see these skilled craftsmen at work. As a treat, we were given a chance to take a shot at making our very own Murano glass charm. Let me just say that it is harder than it looks, I definitely need to work on my psychomotor skills, and I will most definitely not be giving up my day job. On the upside, I now have a Pandora charm that is one of a kind. Any takers?

PPT_production_goldsmith

PPT_production_stone_setting

PPT_production_grinding

According to our lovely guide Ketsarin Koetkrung, Assistant Manager of Business Communications of Pandora Production, PPT employees are paid by the number of hours worked rather than pieces made. Working days are Mondays to Fridays, with 9.5-hour shifts for day and night. Overtime – which pays double – is strictly voluntary and only permitted from Mondays to Wednesdays and on Saturdays, and working hours (with overtime) are capped at 60 hours a week, 24 hours less than the maximum stipulated by Thai labour laws. A financial literary training programme is also available to employees to help them manage their money.

Besides free transportation and competitive wages, employees also have access to free meals, health and safety insurance, a provident fund, as well as maternity and paternity leave (up to 90 days and three days respectively). Pregnant employees also have special breaks and maternity classes, and even baby bump-friendly uniform. These pro-family benefits really impressed me, as my fellow Singaporeans covered by the Employment act are given 12 weeks of maternity leave and a week of paternity leave, and in Thailand only male civil servants are entitled to paternity leave.

So it seems employees are more than adequately covered in terms of compensation and benefits, but still Pandora strives to provide beyond these basic requirements. “A lot of companies think: ‘employee relations’. For us, it’s about a relationship,” said Pandora Production Chief Operations Officer Group Manufacturing John Murphy. “We are certainly a business but what’s really important for us – and it’s more than just something we put up on a PowerPoint slide during orientation – are our values. I think what is quite different about Pandora’s core values is that they emerged and were then written down, as opposed to some senior leaders going off to a workshop and saying, ‘Let these be our values’. It was more like the values were recognised and then put in writing.”

PPT_Melody_Air

PPT_Mariana_observes

PPT_Fani_murano_charms

The challenge, Murphy added, is not in finding skilled workers. There is no lack in people wanting to work for PPT; its previous recruitment exercises have attracted thousands of hopeful applicants who turn up in droves to start queuing at 3am. The real challenge, he revealed, is in inculcating Pandora’s three core values – pride, passion and performance – in such a large and rapidly growing workforce, the majority of which were absent in the beginning of Pandora’s journey. More than 50% of PPT’s employees have been working in the facilities for less than three years, and with a new factory building to open next year, the company is slated for another surge in worker numbers. How do you create a sense of community and belonging with so many people?

You start with providing a great social environment. During breaks and before or after work, employees can head to the Edutainment Centre – which has computers, Internet access and a library – to learn and relax. PPT even has an in-house radio station, manned by its own DJs, and TV station, which broadcasts its own soap operas, sports news, etc. There’s a sporting centre with a basketball court and a wide range of clubs to join, and social events – such as the Pandora’s Got Talent competition – take place on a monthly basis. The two biggest events of the year are the company outing in February, where employees can choose to go to the beach or amusement park with their families; and the end-of-year ‘Thank You’ theme party, featuring famous Thai bands requested by the employees.

PPT_happy_people

All these certainly made me feel like I was back in university. The average age of the employees is about 27 years old, and a good percentage will likely have a long term plan to further their careers. Beyond technical training, PPT has established several professional and personal development programmes aimed at honing their life skills, as well as scholarships. There are plenty of opportunities for advancement, with cases of production workers being promoted to managerial positions. Diversity is also championed – the gender mix in production is about 50/50, and Pandora strives to ensure that participants in its leadership programmes mirror the gender composition in the group’s management positions.

Employees are also empowered to raise any issues and concerns in monthly meetings and regular consultations with human resources. Discussions thus far have spawned new uniform rules, improved jewellery crafting tools and an on-site convenience store. It’s no wonder that Pandora was named ‘Employer of the Year’ at the 2014 Jewellery News Asia Awards.

“When our colleagues come to work, they don’t just bring their hands; they bring their hearts, their minds, their hopes, their fears and their aspirations. And we try to provide an environment in which their hopes and aspirations can be fulfilled and where they get true satisfaction in expressing themselves through their work. All of this combines to create what I think is an amazing company,” Murphy said. I can’t agree more.

If there was still a shadow of a doubt on the mutual commitment between Pandora and its employees, it was completely dispelled after speaking to Fani Pediou and Mariana Nikonenko, who had accompanied me on the factory tour. These two ladies are Pandora’s sales staff from Larnaca International Airport, and they were in Bangkok for the first time courtesy of Pandora, as a reward for their exceptional performance in the company’s mystery shopping test held earlier this year.

PPT_Mariana_Fani

Mariana Nikonenko (left) and Fani Pediou proudly hold up their honorary plaque in recognition of their customer service excellence

When Fani and Mariana were told that they would be going on an all-expenses paid holiday to Bangkok, they were shocked and delighted to tears. Even at the end of the trip, they still could not believe they were in Thailand. “It is like a dream!” Fani exclaimed. Mariana, whose birthday was on 11 November, the day they departed Cyprus on the trip, said this was her biggest and best birthday present yet. As the first point of contact with the consumer, sales staff have an important ambassadorial role to play, and it was heartening to see companies like Pandora recognising their contributions.

Fani has been working for Pandora for five years, and she achieved one of the biggest sales in her career within a month of service, selling about €7,800 worth of gold bracelets and charms to two Russian couples. She’s also managed to convince a male customer who originally intended to buy an item for his wife, to buy 12 charms for a host of other family members. Her secret to good customer service? “To listen to the customer and to ask the right questions. What are they looking for, is it for themselves or a gift for others – these are all techniques that we learnt in product training.”

Pandora_girls_bkk

The Pandora ladies in Bangkok, a city that holds special significance as the brand’s production base. The trip also marks Fani and Mariana’s first visit to Thailand.

When I asked what their most memorable experience of serving a customer was, Mariana recalled a stern-looking Russian gentleman who came in with his female companion – either his wife or his girlfriend – looking for a gift for his daughter. His partner, who wasn’t familiar with Pandora, eyed the selection questionably and, with her nose turned up, asked the man: “What on earth are you buying?” The man, without missing a beat, replied: “Pandora is a brand we like and respect very much. You know nothing, so keep quiet!” How about that for customer loyalty? I’ll bet that made for a very fun airplane ride afterwards…

As I spoke to them both, it was obvious how much pride they had in their work and how happy they were to be working for Pandora. Mariana said she cried when she was first transferred to Pandora from the fashion department of Cyprus Airports Duty Free, but today – one and a half years later – she couldn’t imagine working for any other brand. “We love our job – we do this with love,” she gushed, as Fani nodded in agreement.

Dear readers, you can’t make this stuff up. I have been to Bangkok several times before, but this trip has opened my eyes to a side of it I’ve never seen before. The hope and aspirations of driven, young people who are looking for a better life, a life that can so easily be denied them under unscrupulous and uncaring employers. A recent study by the University of Warwick showed that happiness can boost employee productivity by up to +12%, and it’s evident that Pandora was way ahead of the pack. It’s high time for everyone else to raise the bar.

PPT_Pandora_girls_Melody

Thank you Pandora for the once-in-a-lifetime experience

Leave a Reply

HK signs

I’m nearly on the home strait. My final trip of a long year, much of it spent extending my carbon footprint to the size of a jet-setting Yeti. Abominable behaviour I know (which reminds me of the tragic tale of an Irish friend who died after deciding to slash his carbon footprint by cycling to work instead. What a shame he worked on an oil rig).

I’m heading to Macau (having flown into Hong Kong International Airport, above) for DFS Group’s Masters of Time, a spectacular event being held at Shoppes at Four Seasons starting later today.

Visitors will be able to see an extraordinary collection of over 400 fine watches and jewellery masterpieces from 40 prestigious brands that DFS has curated. Three experts within their fields will be on hand to offer their insights on time and craftsmanship, including luxury watch expert, Benjamin Clymer; 2013’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Mark Gee; and renowned jewellery historian, Vivienne Becker.

Masters of Time is billed as the world’s largest premier retail exhibition of Haute Horlogerie and its lustre is being accentuated by the introduction of Haute Joaillerie for the first time this year.

Speaking of Haute Joaillerie, it doesn’t come much higher than the magnificent Swarovski Christmas tree at Hong Kong International Airport (below). This unique festive symbol tree is made up of over a million Swarovski crystals, stands over 16m tall, and spans over two levels of the airport. It utilises natural daylight to complement the sparkle from the crystals, causing them to shimmer like stars. Brilliant, in every sense.

HK mm tree

HK swarovski tree 3

As is, by the way, my favourite airport icon of 2014, a replica of a Farman biplane (below) which is suspended from the ceiling at Hong Kong International Airport T1. The wood and fabric, French-made Farman was the first aircraft to fly in Hong Kong, where it was flown in Sha Tin on 18 March 1911 by pioneer Belgian aviator Charles Van den Born.

I never fail to snap a photo of it and every time I am here I count many others doing just the same. What a glorious, nostalgic reminder of the allure and nostalgia of flight, an activity, no make that a state that I seem to spend half of my life in. My final flight home of 2014 on Sunday night, on a Virgin Airbus A346 not a Farman, beckons with the warmth and welcome of a lantern on a far-off country porch as year 13 of The Moodie Report draws to a close.

HK flight

Leave a Reply

Bl_271114_500_001

“Good afternoon Sir. Wow, you are someone very famous! It’s so nice to meet you.”

The greeting was as warm as it was unexpected. Meet Roland Santos Gripon, a young man from the Philippines who is today manning the Dubai Duty Free Full of Surprises and Millennium Millionaire prize draw desk.

Was this a case of mistaken identity? After all, I have been mistaken for Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas. Even once, mildly tragically, for the little old bald man in the Benny Hill television series.

“So, who am I then?” I asked (the same question I asked myself several times in the wee, small hours of this morning as the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup party at the Irish Village reached a crescendo).

“You’re Mr Moodie, Mr Martin Moodie of The Moodie Report,” replied Roland. “We know you very well.”

Identity confirmed, I chatted away to Roland. He’s been working with Dubai Duty Free for fours years and says he is “very proud to work for the world’s number one retailer”.

“We just won the Frontier Award in Cannes, Sir,” he told me. We continued our chat while he was helping me with my entries in the Millennium Million and Finest Surprise (a McLaren MP4-12C Coupe in graphite grey, which will look just the thing parked outside Moodie HQ in Brentford) drawers,

And here, I think, is an insight to Dubai Duty Free’s success that outsiders often don’t understand. The courtesy – no, make that outright friendliness – of the staff is, I believe, unrivalled in travel retail. That’s testament to the quality of the human resources department, both in its employee selection and its training.

I completed my purchases and said to the young man: “Actually you’re the famous one Roland, not me. You work for the world’s leading single airport retailer and you’re a big reason for its success.”

Roland liked that and wished me “Good luck Sir” as I bade farewell.

And here’s another thing about Dubai Duty Free. This wasn’t a one-off. Within 20 metres I was stopped by a young woman, also Filipino, called Agnes Garma, who stopped me and said: “Hello Mr Moodie.”

Agnes is Manager – Operations Support and had met me at the Dubai Duty Free 30th anniversary celebrations last year and maybe on other occasions. I was particularly delighted to learn that (like Roland) Agnes reads The Moodie Report regularly, especially, it turned out, this Blog.

Bl_271114_500_002

“How long have you worked for Dubai Duty Free Agnes?” I asked.

“Oh Sir, a long time, 30 years!” she replied, as proud as punch.

That almost makes Agnes one of a select band of people described by Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin as ‘the pioneers’, i.e. those who have been here since day one, way back in 1983. 30 years by my reckoning makes her start date 1984, very impressive indeed. As you can see from the photo, Agnes looks far too young to have worked here for three decades.

“That’s impossible,” I said, “you are way, way too young.”

She laughed and indicated she had started as a baby. Then she revealed her age (I won’t) and indeed she had come over to Dubai in the early 80s as a hopeful young woman looking to earn a living and send money back to her family. She told me how well she has been treated all these years by the Dubai Duty Free “family” and then with great excitement informed me that she was travelling back to Manila tonight on holiday.

It is her first visit home in a year, just another example of the immense sacrifices the Overseas Foreign Workers of the Philippines (heroes and heroines to a man and women) make on behalf of their families and country. Not all are as lucky as Agnes and Roland and work for such a good employer. Many will face mistreatment, abuse (physical and pyschological) and years of abject loneliness and despair.

And I even have a third case study. As I entered the Irish Village last night, another young Filipino woman came up to me and said: “Welcome Mr Moodie, it’s nice to meet you.”

Her name was Cleotilde Valdez (below) and she had been featured in The Moodie Report’s popular Front Line column in October, which puts the spotlight on staff singled out for excellence by their employer. She was very proud indeed of this feat, and so she should be.

rsz_1sn_1583

Cleotilde and Agnes and Roland, and all the people at Dubai Duty Free, from senior management to the newest recruit, you are, more than anything, what makes Dubai Duty Free great.

Footnote: I’m writing this from a very interim Moodie Report bureau in the amazing Emirates First Class Lounge (below) at Dubai International, my wonderful travel agent Phil Burdekin (Flight Centre) again pulling off an upgrade and securing a First Class ticket for much less than the business class fare. I’ve had to return one day early from the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup due to some unexpected business issues so I can officially reveal that I will not be the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup champion for 2014.

emirates lounge

Even if I had played in today’s second round, however, I suspect I would not have “troubled the scorers” as the euphemism goes. I played in a delightful fourball with Colm McLoughlin, one of his long-time senior managers Brendan O’Shea (now retired) and the great, great Mohammed Mounib, one of the true pioneers of travel retail, now working in the hotel industry with much success.

Given that the leader (Pernod Ricard’s Daevid Warren playing off 24) scored an unlikely 47 stableford points, any addition on day two to my humble 21 would not have (collectively) got me onto the day one leaderboard.

How is the reigning champion, our very own Dermot ‘Divot’ Davitt, ‘the housewives’ favourite’ for the tournament, faring? Not bad at all actually, with a very impressive 37 points on day one despite a heavy post-MEADFA Conference de-stressing session. That de-stress could well turn into distress today though, after reports of the Divot being seen in the nearby Dubliners Bar at 5.am with David Spillane, who lived up to his pledge to go to bed early.

The only recovery shots both will be involved with today are likely to glasses of something strong.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

rsz_emirates

I’m holed up in The Moodie Report’s interim Dubai bureau, the stylish Dubai Duty Free-owned and operated Jumeirah Creekside Hotel. And later today, I hope to be holing out in style at the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup, which tees off this afternoon. More of that in a moment.

I flew here via that big bird pictured above, the Emirates A380, landing in the wee small hours of Monday morning, a few hours before the annual Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association (MEADFA) conference kicked off.

I missed the Opening Cocktail on Sunday due to the time clash with an even more important event, the All Blacks v Wales rugby match in Cardiff on Saturday, which I attended with The Moodie Report’s own Welsh Mann, Rebecca.

What a game and what an occasion. What a privilege to be in that stadium with the most awe-inspiring supporters you ever saw. Or, more to the point, ever heard. What singing. If I had any hairs on my neck (or head) it would raise every one of them.

But it’s golf, not rugby, that matters today. Let’s take a look at some of the runners and riders.

dd-leader-2

The reigning champion is none other than The Moodie Report’s resident Irishman, Dermot ‘Divot’ (above), surely one of the most popular winners in the history of the event. Can he do it again? Can ’the housewives’ favourite’ hole out time and again as he did last year to become the first player to retain the championship? Well he was certainly sinking a few last night but as we’re talking pints in the Irish Village rather than putts, as he got all the stress of moderating the MEADFA conference out of his system, he may struggle today. Mind you that never stopped the Guinness-gulping Galwayman last year. Odds: 50/1 

Martin Moodie: Like famous racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, The Moodie Report has multiple runners in the Cup. Alas, this one is golfing’s equivalent of a three-legged, blind horse with vertigo attempting to win the Grand National. Afflicted by the putting and chipping yips and his driving and long irons aren’t much better. He’s got two chances of winning this, slim and none. And Slim, as they say, just left town. Odds: 72 trillion/1

moodie_pigeons_500

[The only birdies The Moodie Report Chairman will be seeing today, as once again he turns in a crumby performance]

Patrick Dorais: Yesterday the Al Nassma Director of Sales (below in jacket) brought two camels along to the post-MEADFA lunch to publicise the company’s excellent milk chocolate. But frankly having seen Patrick play golf, I believe either camel would have a better chance of winning the tournament than he does. In this very event a few years ago he made history by becoming the first player that a birdie got, as opposed to getting a birdie. The ‘free drop’ is still talked about by fellow players to this day. Odds: 43 gazillion/1

rsz_camel

Peter Sant: Rémy Cointreau’s Global Travel Retail Managing Director is a great guy. But, how to put this tactfully… he’s not such a great golfer. VSOP in his case most definitely does not stand for Very Serious One Putter. In fact his game is strictly XO… X-rated & Ordinary. By the 9th hole today he’ll be calling the Piper, but we’re talking Heidsieck not the tune. Odds: 193 cointreau-illions/1

Colm McLoughlin: The Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free is back playing this year after injury kept him out of recent tournaments. Judging by his form earlier this week in a practice round the break has done him no harm at all and with a handicap of 14, allied to local knowledge he must represent good odds at 25/1

tuliblog

Sunil Tuli (above): Not many people know this but the King Power Group (HK) executive started his working life as a tea-planter in his native India. Now the country’s best-known duty free export is better known for tee-planting, his perennial handicap of 24 giving rise to his golfing nickname the Bombay Bandit. All that practice should surely count for something today, right? Wrong. The only Power you’ll see will be on his business card and even though this will make him Tuli, madly, deeply upset, I rate his odds at 150 million rupee-llions/1

Art Miller: A previous winner here, and the former beauty sector executive’s game is in no need of a makeover. Having taken some well-earned R&R following his departure from Revlon, expect the popular American to shoot the lights out today. Enough about US Gun laws though, let’s focus on his golf, at which he is more than capable of turning all those unfortunate Ryder Cup jokes (Phil Mickelson,  Keegan Bradley, Jim Furyk to name three) upside down. Get your Dollars on fast before his odds shorten after day one. Odds: 9/1

Jonathan Holland: Being English, the dapper Singapore-based agent (pictured below with his caddy) loves his fish & chips. He’ll have plenty of opportunity for both today so often will he end up in the water and playing recovery shots from off the green. Known as ‘Chaps’ to his many friends, he plans to use his driver (known as Chaps’ Stick) today to ensure he at least reaches the ladies’ tee. Also known as ‘Gump’ as in Forrest. Which is where he will also spend much of today’s round. Odds: 65 million CaryGrantsound-alike-illions/1

chapsblog

David Spillane: I wouldn’t say he’s got no chance but having seen him in the Irish Village in the early hours putting in a few practice rounds, I’d say you’re better off backing Sherghar to win next year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. The closest the Italian-Irishman (the family name rhymes with Killarney) ever got to a birdie is the Tweeties he stuck on top of his chocolate tubes and when he yells out ‘It’s my round’, chances are he’s not talking golf. Odds: 12 jellybaby-illions/1

John Kammerman: Good to see the former champion, now working for Travalo, back in the industry. Still traumatised by the Ryder Cup, he’s determined to show that Americans can play this game. Odds: 14/1

Dan Cappell: Dan (pictured below in pre-match workout) can hit the ball a country mile. The problem is that it’s usually into another country. Having spent so much of his golfing career in the car parks, it was no surprise to see him take up a role as Car Park Manager at Melbourne Airport last year but now he’s back where he belongs in the sands of the Middle East. And that’s precisely where he will spend much of the next two days. Odds: 250/1

cappellblog

Walsh, Webster and Maxwell: They’re back! They may sound like a trio of aviation sector barristers but the popular boys from the UK are all deft hands on the golf course and any one of them could turn in the week’s premier performance. Who’s our money on?  ’Gazza’ Maxwell, a 17th cousin, 45 times removed, to the coffee tycoon of the same name, has a fearsome long game as I can testify having played alongside him in Cannes. But oh that short game… alas it’s not a case of Maxwell’s silver hammer I’m afraid. Just don’t mention ‘Yip’ when he’s putting… (45/1)

Andrew Webster is a passionate Wolves supporter and chances are he’ll let out a couple of howls today as all those pre-tournament late nights erode his confidence around the greens. 80/1.

No, our money goes on Kevin Walsh who, playing off 21, looks the best chance of the higher handicappers.  Rumours suggest there’s a lot of money being put on him back in Wales and his fellow countrymen are supremely confident. Then again, that’s what they said before their rugby team played the All Blacks last week and we know what happened there. Odds: 12 leek-illions/1

James Kfouri: You’d have to be nuts to not put a wager on ‘Mr Pistachio’ himself, a former winner of this tournament and, off 18, a real threat again. Can the boy from down under come up tops again and put the ‘cash’ into ‘cashew’? You bet he can. Odds: 8/1

Barry Geoghegan: Affectionately known as ‘BFG’ (we understand that the ‘B’ stands for ‘Bad’ and the ‘G’ for ‘golfer’, not sure about the ‘F’), the popular Irishman was spotted on the range last night. The Craggy Range that is. This careful diet of grapes and water has him perfectly prepared for the ultimate test of the next two days but let’s not talk about the post-round parties. Like an Irishman who hates his vegetables, he’ll be having an almighty struggle with the greens. Odds: 32 shamrock-illions/1

Catherine Bonelli: Can the petite white (Paul &) Shark win the ladies tournament? Certainly if sartorial elegance comes into, she’ll come close. After near disaster in our own MIS-HIT (Moodie International Superstars Honorary Invitation Tournament) when her golf ball exploded on the first tee (below), expect her to bomb a few shots out into the fairway today. When she completes the 18th, it’d be a case of a Paul & Shark’s fin. Odds: 750/1

Catherine new

Catherine_Bonnelli_2_500

2 Responses to “Sizing up the odds at the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup”

  1. Art Miller says:

    You’d have to be nuts not to ROTFL reading these wittiest of comments on the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup “competitors”. Brilliant and most enjoyable reading. Keep them coming please.

  2. paddy dory says:

    Martin

    “That was a cracker!” as old Frankie Carson would have said, god bless his soul

    In fact we were reminiscing about these old blogs from back in 2006-2007 and bang on mate! Also to re-read about the exploits and remember some of our old industry friends who are looking down at us now from above.

    In any case – be afraid – be very afraid – I scored 27 on today’s round and in the purest of Dubai style I plan on double-digit growth tomorrow…

    See you at the Village!

Leave a Reply

Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus,
Aur y byd na’i berlau mân:
Gofyn rwyf am galon hapus,
Calon onest, calon lân.

Calon lân yn llawn daioni,
Tecach yw na’r lili dlos:
Dim ond calon lân all ganu
Canu’r dydd a chanu’r nos.

Tomorrow my autumn sporting odyssey continues, and I am (literally) back on familiar ground. After a brief flirtation with golf earlier this month, and cricket in October, this weekend I renew my acquaintance with the greatest game on earth – rugby union – in the greatest sporting venue on the planet – the Millennium Stadium. Alas, Wales will be lining up against the world’s greatest rugby team, the mighty All Blacks, and I am going to the match with one Martin Moodie, my Christchurch-born boss…

RM_Millennium
The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann at the Millennium Stadium in February

I have run all the numbers, as they say, and come to the conclusion that there is no way this can possibly end well. Should Wales somehow win (c’mon, the boys in black are surely due an off day), I will most certainly be dusting down my CV come Monday morning; this could be my final Blog. Should Wales lose…well, I’ll probably still be unemployed – dismissed for subordination – or at the very least MIA, in the depths of despair, somewhere in the back alleys of Cardiff. The only thing Mr Moodie and I will have in common this weekend, other than a raging hangover come Sunday, is our mutual loathing of Saturday’s ref Wayne Barnes, a man so utterly inept he makes Alain Rolland – of whom more below – look competent.

Wales v New Zealand is, of course, the showdown every proper rugby fan wanted for the final of the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC). That dream was scuppered by one-eyed, half-French ref Rolland, who controversially (that is the censored version) awarded Wales captain Sam Warburton a red card in the semi-final against, oh would you believe it, France, for an alleged tip tackle. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A YELLOW will be carved into my tombstone – or better yet, Rolland’s head, if I ever get my hands on him.

Flag_nails
Pre-match manicure – nailed!

Wales subsequently played a blinder with just 14 men, but eventually lost the match 9-8. In RWC terms, for me, that will always, always be the one that got away – particularly given a) our current form and b) the prospects facing us in the so-called “Pool of Death” in next year’s competition.

Still, three years too late, I’ve got the match I wanted. My head knows full well that a Welsh victory tomorrow is unlikely. My heart has other ideas, however, and my soul will simply revel in the privilege of watching Wales, amongst my own, in the Millennium Stadium. For an hour or so at least, my ever-present hiraeth will be assuaged.

The atmosphere in the Millennium is second to none, and I have been fortunate enough to see us win many a game there, most recently this February, when Wales decimated France 27-6 in the Six Nations (added bonus: booing that man Rolland, who frankly would have needed a police escort to get home if he’d messed up again). The singing, the camaraderie, the sheer Welshness of it all is manna from above (or should that be Bread of Heaven?) for an exile such as I.

dragon
From one dragon to another: come on the bois!

Neither Wales nor New Zealand covered themselves in glory last weekend, although both managed to grind out victories, against Fiji and Scotland, respectively (by contrast, England lost. Again. 0 from 5 now, I believe?). My team will have to raise its game stratospherically to avoid public humiliation tomorrow – never mind actually winning – but as a true Cymraes I am genetically programmed to believe that this is possible.

Naturally I will do everything I can to help, donning every lucky red garment I possess; painting flags on my fingernails; and praying fervently to St David, my late father and anyone else up there who might be able to put in a good word with the fickle gods of rugby.

To paraphrase John Cleese, I can take the despair, it’s the hope that always finishes me. Here’s hoping that tomorrow we finish off the All Blacks instead. #CymruAmByth

Leave a Reply

BKK 2 - blog

BKk 3 - blog

I’m at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, en route to Hong Kong and then London, my head a little tender after a wonderful King Power International Group 25th anniversary party and concert last night.

KP_1114_600_1

King Power party group shot

KP_Images_600_002

What magnificent hosts King Power were and the concert in the exquisite Aksra Theatre was a fantastic mix of top Thai artists and the legendary Kenny G (below).

Party_Phuket-announcement_1114_600

KP_1114_600_9

KP_1114_600_3

KP_1114_600_5

I was here on the day Suvarnabhumi opened and to see it in its full maturity is interesting. To me the airport’s combination of the artistic and cultural with the commercial is one of the best in the world. I love the openness of the shops (no ceilings, no walls and doors) and there’s a very good mix of international and local brands.

I’ve got a key meeting in Hong Kong tomorrow and then it’s back through Suvarnabhumi later in the day for the long ride home. One day in London, then I am taking my life in my hands by going to Cardiff on Saturday to watch the All Blacks play Wales, in the company of arguably the most one-eyed Welsh rugby fan of all time, my colleague Rebecca Mann. I figure whoever wins it’s going to be bad for me, so I will be surely the only person in the stadium praying for a draw.

Sunday it’s back on a plane, bound for Dubai and the annual Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association conference. Where did this year go again?

BKk 15 - blog

BKK 16 - blog

BKK 8 - blog

BKK 7 - blog

BKK 11 - blog

BKK 10 - blog

One Response to “Celebrating a quarter century’s achievements in style”

  1. Paul says:

    Never a draw Martin – AB’s all the way!

Leave a Reply

Thai flight path

Sunday

This Blog starts in The Moodie Report’s latest Interim Bureau onboard Thai Airways 911 from London to Bangkok. I’m 35,000ft above Russia, just east of Minsk and heading towards Br’ansk (I wonder why the apostrophe in the word?). As I write, I’m listening to the exquisite violin artistry of Nicola Benedetti, exploring her Scottish roots in ‘Homecoming – A Scottish Fantasy’.

Well I know the All Blacks beat the Scots (just) at rugby on Saturday but as a deep, deep descendant of a Glaswegian on my father’s side (in the 19th century the name, just before its owner of the time emigrated to Canada, was changed from Modie to Moodie for some reason; surely thereby hangs a tale, probably of the murky variety), I’ve long been a fan of most things Scottish, most notably the bagpipes. Never was the beauty of the latter better captured than in Mark Knopfler’s ‘Piper to the End’, a song to listen to before you die.

Scottish fantasy

Similarly, if you know anyone Scottish or with Scottish ancestry Ms Benedetti’s album would make the most sublime gift. There are few more beautiful pieces of classical music in the world than Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, for imagine. You can almost feel yourself skipping through the fields of heather as you listen to it and I promise that’s not just the (excellent) Montagny Premier Cru 2010 (served, pictured, by the graceful and gracious Naiyana) talking.

Thai Wine

Listen to her (Nicola Benedetti not Naiyana, that is) play, with her feather-soft touch, ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, swan-like in its beauty, and you’ll know what I mean.

heathrow t2 panorama

But I digress. I flew out of The Queen’s Terminal (T2) at Heathrow, a place that (apart from the half-marathon like distances to the gate) I could grow to love. I have heard some criticisms about the predictability of its retail line-up but on balance I really like the commercial offer as well as the big wide vistas (see above). Yes, most of the names are familiar but the executions are consistently excellent.

heathrow t2 dixons

You have to have a top-class consumer technology and accessories offer at any airport these days and I still think Dixons Travel (above) is best-in-class. My battle-weary Lumix recently bit the dust and I sought expert advice on what to replace it with. Surprise, surprise, once I had explained my needs, the excellent sales assistant Amar pointed me at exactly the same camera (albeit a more recent model), pointing out its merits (for me) over several higher-priced competitors. The clarity of the shots on this page I hope bear testament to his recommendation.

heathrow t2 jo malone

heathrow t2 collector

Besides Dixons I also shopped at World Duty Free’s main store (above) and Moneycorp foreign exchange. The former is a lovely new shop (though I think they should pull the gondola heights down in the drinks section) with particularly nice deft touches in beauty and ultra-premium spirits.

My recent comments on the point of sale service at T3 drew commendable concern from World Duty Free Group and I’m pleased to note no such concerns this time.

I bought a single bottle of wine as a gift, was asked if Bangkok was my final destination and, when I asked if I could take two or maybe three bottles in, was told immediately, “No, the total allowance for wines and spirits is one litre.” My server (Nubradian?) even checked with his colleagues to ensure he was right. This should be the norm of course but still around the travel retail planet too many staff do not know about the correct allowances.

Foreign exchange doesn’t get too many mentions in the media but Moneycorp (below) deserves a citation here as a role model for currency business at airports. Instead of the familiarly cold, behind glass, environment one associates with airport foreign exchange, this is bright, open and staffed by engaging individuals. I think my server tonight (Liban) was a trainee but I liked the way he immediately sought (and got) advice from his friendly colleague (Chalton) when he was confused (speed is key to foreign exchange operations) and that my transaction was swiftly dealt with.

heathrow t2 moneycorp

Anyway, enough, I am now over the Caspian Sea, north of Baku and it’s time to rest. I’m headed to the Thai capital for the 25th anniversary celebrations of King Power International Group, a mighty landmark in the history of one of Asia’s, and the world’s, great travel retailers. 25 years, a quarter of a century. Gosh, it makes me feel old. I have actually been in the industry longer than that (by two years), though it has to be said that I haven’t aged nearly so well.

I have always been an advocate of chronicling industry history for it’s all too easy to take success stories for granted. Behind them, inevitably, lie great tales of blood, sweat and more than a few tears; tales of great human endeavour; of leaders who dared to challenge the norm, who inspired, who brought others of like mind along with them on the journey.

King Power’s is just such a tale (as is that of its leader Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha) and I’m honoured to be part of its richly deserved celebrations tomorrow.

Monday

I’ve arrived in Bangkok and just returned to my new interim Bureau, the Pullman Bangkok King Power, after an enjoyable and illuminating visit to the King Power Srivaree Complex today. Due to the well-publicised political turmoil here, business was very tough earlier in the year.

KP MM LCFC

[Come on the Foxes! At the Leicester City Football Club boutique in the King Power Srivaree Complex today] 

KP MM and DN

[The industry's two most experienced journalists, Doug Newhouse, with whom I spent a pleasant taxi ride comparing journalistic lives, to the left and me to the right, with the fantastically welcoming King Power team]

It’s good to see it now recovering so strongly and today it was absolutely packed with Chinese group tourists who are pouring in there at the rate of between 6,000 and 10,000 a day. The scenes within the L’Oréal Paris boutique were particularly noteworthy, the unrivalled consumer feeding frenzy there underlining the fact that it’s not just about luxury in appealing to the great Chinese tourism wave.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story, not just about the level of business but the level of retail quality.

KP Loreal Paris crowds

KP entrance

KP confection crowds

Kp Crowds

KP Xmas tree

KP Lauder

KP Panorama

KP Lauder

KP Watch

Kp Watch interior

Kp Tiffany

Kp Swarovski

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

After a week in Cannes, the body – especially the liver – craves rest. Plain fare. No alcohol. Early nights. Well, scratch THAT. The Moodie Report had barely unpacked from the Riviera before heading to the Highlands for a whisky launch, courtesy of LVMH and World Duty Free Group (WDFG). Out went the stilettos and the sunglasses; into the suitcase went the wellies and the waterproofs.

Glenmorangie_dornoch_bottle
The limited-edition, travel retail exclusive Glenmorangie Dornoch

The launch in question was the travel retail exclusive Glenmorangie Dornoch. The limited-edition expression will make its debut in the channel later this month, via an exclusive two-month listing with WDFG, before rolling out to the wider travel retail sector. As its name suggests, Glenmorangie Dornoch was inspired by the area surrounding the Glenmorangie distillery, which is located on the banks of the Dornoch Firth – a vast sea estuary and worldwide Site of Special Scientific Interest, recognised globally for its vital marine habitats.

RM_golf1
RM_golf2
broken_club
golf_pros
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing: The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann and long-suffering golf pros Sean Fay and Gary Dingwall

In line with Glenmorangie’s commitment to preserve the natural heritage around the distillery for future generations, for every bottle sold, a donation will be made to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), to help sustain and protect the estuary.

Calum_firth
The Marine Conservation Society’s Calum Duncan at the Dornoch Firth

In other words, Glenmorangie Dornoch is imbued with a genuine Sense of Place from start to finish. That was reflected in the launch event itinerary, which began with lunch and a round of golf at the Royal Dornoch Club, whose breathtakingly beautiful Championship Course was ranked 6th in the world – and number one in Scotland – by Golf Digest 2014.

GH_bed
GH_decanter
Glenmorangie House takes bed and board to a whole new level

Ah yes, golf. The Moodie Report has several accomplished players (step forward Dermot ‘Divot’ Davitt) but this particular Mann ain’t one of them. I’ve never picked up a club in my life, and as a southpaw who bats right-handed, I wasn’t even sure which way to swing (behave at the back). Luckily, the teaching pros Sean Fay and Gary Dingwall had endless reserves of patience, and once we’d overcome the hurdle of club selection, to my amazement I found myself hitting every single ball. Some of them in the right direction, even. “You’re a natural!” declared Gary encouragingly (although he didn’t specify at what). Nonetheless, having seen my driving skills on the course, he made sure I stayed in the passenger seat in the golf buggy.

Dr_Bill_glenmorangie2
The legendary Dr Bill leads a pre-dinner whisky tasting

After the proper players on the trip had finished their round, we headed to the Dornoch Firth itself – the inspiration for the Glenmorangie Dornoch whisky’s taste profile. MCS Programme Manager Scotland Calum Duncan delivered an impassioned presentation on the importance of the estuary, after which the group retired to Glenmorangie House in Tain, in readiness for the evening’s events.

GH_menu
haggis
GH_dessert
Dinner is served, in true Scottish style

Reader, if you ever get the chance to stay there, jump at it with both feet flying, because it is heaven on earth. The beds alone are worth the flight, and don’t get me started on the breakfasts… Each bedroom is individually furnished and decorated in traditional Scottish style and – best of all – a decanter of Glenmorangie single malt is provided in all of the rooms. I sampled mine stretched out in a bath that was almost big enough to swim in. Bliss.

Glenmorangie_distillery
The highlight of day two was a tour of the Glenmorangie Distillery

But the whisky tasting proper began a little later, at the formal, pre-dinner reveal of Glenmorangie Dornoch. Glenmorangie Director of Distilling & Whisky Creation Dr Bill Lumsden delivered a masterclass on how to taste whisky in general, and enjoy Glenmorangie Dornoch in particular. He also educated me on the etiquette of ‘releasing the serpent’ (I say again, behave at the back). It’s a proper whisky term. Google it if you don’t believe me.

Andy_distillery
Distillery Manager Andy McDonald runs a few routine checks

Our appetites whetted after the drams and canapés, we headed to the dining room, in preparation for piping in the haggis, which was duly served with a Glenmorangie Original cream sauce. The menu was a total triumph. If I concentrate hard enough I can still taste the dark chocolate and vanilla delice dessert, which was served with Glenmorangie Dornoch poached apples, and violet ice cream coloured the exact same shade as the new expression’s packaging. Alas, I can certainly still feel it on my waistline – but heck, it was worth it.

Nigel_distillery
WDFG’s Nigel Sandals gets set for some sampling

After dinner we retired to the fire to be further entertained, both by traditional Scottish music – and the musings of the legend that is Dr Bill. I added Glenmorangie Signet to my tasting repertoire, before weaving my way to bed at around half past midnight. At breakfast the next day it transpired that certain others kept going until “the back end of one” (Dr Bill-speak for past 2am). Much respect.

cask
Nectar of the Gods: cask-strength Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

After a “bracing” (wet and windy) walk to Glenmorangie House’s private beach, day two began with a visit to the Glenmorangie Distillery, led by Distillery Manager Andy McDonald. After a fascinating tour, we were lucky enough to be treated to some tastings straight from the barrel. The cask-strength Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban was so good it almost reduced me to tears. What a privilege to sample it.

Final_tasting
One for the road: the final Glenmorangie tasting

The tour concluded with yet another official tasting, of Glenmorangie Original, Dornoch and Signet, followed by a lunch, to help soak up all the alcohol. The shortbread, as you’d perhaps expect, was sublime.

All too soon it was time to travel back to Inverness Airport for the flight home (and a week in the gym to compensate). Thanks so much to all the hosts for their superlative hospitality and excellent company. I raise my glass to the success of Glenmorangie Dornoch – slàinte mhath to all involved.

Leave a Reply

Older Posts »