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Cask 811. It’s a name that promises to be on more than a few malt whisky lovers’ lips in 2008.
The cask in question hails from the beautiful Isle of Islay – the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ as it is often dubbed. It currently resides in the dank warehouse of Morrison Bowmore Distilers, where the air is filled with the rich, pungent, peaty aromas of great Bowmore single malt whiskies and the angels are languidly merry as they take their ‘share’.
But pretty soon the cask will be residing somewhere a great deal more cosmopolitan – London Heathrow Airport’s swanky new Terminal 5, which opens next March.
Cask 811 is a cask with a difference – it was specifically chosen by the distiller and airport retailer World Duty Free to celebrate the T5 opening.
World Duty Free Managing Director Mark Riches and Liquor Buyer Paul Hunnisett (pictured right to left above) and Commercial Director Jo O’Connor headed out west to try out a few casks – a tough job but someone’s got to do it, as they say – to see which cask would fit the bill.
Three made the short-list but the nod finally went to a 1965 first-fill hoghsead barrel that, amazingly, will yield only 55 bottles.
55 bottles? That’s not even five cases. What was all the fuss about? Well, listen to this – each of those bottles is likely to command a retail price-point of about £6,000 (US$12,300). That’s US$676,500 worth of whisky, which at World Duty Free margins represents a mightily healthy profit for the BAA-owned retailer.
But believe it or not, the money is a side issue. BAA is determined to create a series of unique consumer experiences at T5 and it has been pushing its brand partners and fellow retailers hard to turn the terminal into a commercial cathedral of the imaginative, the innovative and the inspired.
In his various well-received conference speeches down the years Mark Riches has made much of the concept of collaborative initiatives with suppliers to create a better, more exciting consumer experience.
Now he has the chance to walk the talk. With this concept, Mark Riches, World Duty Free and Morrison Bowmore are embracing the spirit of partnership in the most literal of senses.
If Cask 811 is a taste of things to come, 2008 should be a vintage year indeed for duty free at Heathrow Airport.