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Whisky galore: Travellers who buy duty-free spirits are a boring lot

IN THE past, when flying home from a distant country, it was always my practice to bring back a litre of the local spirit from the duty-free shop. The names of these have now long escaped me: a sugary liqueur from Brazil that had a tree growing inside the bottle, something undrinkable made out of tree sap from India, a Greek concoction in a plastic container that may have been distantly related to ouzo. These delights, with exactly one shot’s-worth missing from the bottle, would, over the course of several years, shuffle their way to the back of my drinks cupboard. Then one day, when I needed the space, I would reach to the depths of my shelf looking for a likely bottle to discard, and wonder what on earth had made me think buying it was a good idea.Nowadays I just buy gin.

Travellers spend $9 billion a year on duty-free spirits according to IWSR, a wine-and-spirits data collector. Yet flyers across the world show a singular lack of ambition for trying anything new. Using IWSR data, Vinepair, a drinks website, has put together a map of who buys what, where. Of the 13 regions it examined, Scotch was the most popular purchase in all but four. In Asia, over half of duty-free spirit sales were for whisky; in South America it accounted for 41%. Only in Central Europe and Eastern Europe (both vodka), Mexico (tequila) and the Caribbean (rum) did another spirit prevail. …