Duty Free -Yeah or Nay

So the first time ever, we (my wife actually) bought something in a duty free shop . She bought a bottle of Patron Silver. It ended up being a decent savings from a percentage standpoint, but saved “only” $15. To me, it’s just not worth it, and I’m the more frugal one in the household.

Just curious what’s your take on duty free shopping. Are you in or are you out ??

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I rarely buy from Duty Free, but when returning from Edinburgh recently, made note of the Scotch whiskeys that were not available or hard to get in the US, and took advantage of buying a couple bottles. That they were 1l bottles was a bonus.

Ended up with 2 1l bottles of Royal Brackla 12-year, and really like it. Price was great, too, $75/bottle

We are expecting an Otto-level trip report.

As to Duty Free, I don’t buy anything but the occasional obscure candy or a mustard set. Maybe I’m not in the right airports, but the wine and hooch offerings have been underwhelming. Often they are “special” editions that seem to have been made just for the airport crowd, or they are mass-produced stuff that is widely available in the states.

It’s been up for weeks, buddy

The patron was the same . A 1L bottle that was only a bit more than the 750ML we buy here in the states .


Duty free over the years has become pretty awful for value, and pretty awful for choice, I’m sure driven by extremely high rent charged by airports for the shops. I recall seeing ‘duty free’ prices for electrical items way over the high street chain prices, despite them having to include 20% vat in those lower prices.

Very occasionally there are exceptions e.g. when the venerable (but forward looking) English wine merchant Berry Brothers & Rudd had a duty free shop at Heathrow. Likewise the occasional small / old airport can be appealing as IIRC Catania was before it’s recentish major rebuild, with local products at local prices. I suspect the list of such places will be pretty close to zero now.

Recent airport redesigns now herd customers directly through these shops, which really signals what it’s all about.

World of Whiskies was great at one time for one-off bottlings, including Heathrow only bottlings of Bowmore 25 and Laphroaig 21. The Laphroaig 21 was particularly noteworthy.


5 years ago I bought 2 Lagavulin 16 bottles for a good price. Price increased after Covid, have yet to take a sip.

I can usually find something compelling in a European duty-free, be it scotch or port or wine, but I don’t think the deals are screaming.
Usually the product from the country I’m flying out of (port in Lisbon, Calvados in Paris, Riesling in Frankfurt) have been the most attractive.
Otherwise, like you say, it’s usually a lot of mass market products that are maybe five dollars less than what they cost me at my Virginia ABC store.

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I’ve found decent deals at times, it just depends. I found some Cristal somewhere in Europe that was in a wine fridge snd something like E150 for 2013 so I bought as much as I could carry, forgot where, maybe Amsterdam?

Know your prices and caveat emptor. Occasional bottles not found elsewhere at a fair price lead me to buy. In some locations the staff know what is unique so I will ask. If it is just to save a few bucks on what I can find locally I will pass.


Any time I pass through Dubai, I try to buy as much Musar as I can carry. For some reason Dubai duty free has the best price on Musar in the world. Red/white/rose all available for around $35 per bottle.

Taiepei Taoyuan also has great prices on Taiwanese whiskeys.


I travel a bunch and only buy whiskey in duty free. Often there are limited or travel only exclusives that are very good and impossible (or far more expensive) to find elsewhere.

Recently bourbon examples are Russell’s Reserve Father and Son (13year but low proof), Makers Mark Cellar aged, Wild Turkey Un Chill filtered, in Japanese airport age stated wild turkey 101.

You do have to be careful as not everything travel exclusive is actually rare. Sometimes it is just the same liquid you could get in a normal bottle, just in a 1L which isn’t sold anywhere else.

I’ve given up on wine and don’t have the knowledge to know on the high end and 95% of t\he time seems like nothing interesting. The Musar tip is a great one and will be on the lookout for that

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I don’t buy for value any more, but will look for special releases or stuff I can’t get in the U.S. (Havana Club 7 from Cuba).

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Bought a Dom and Balvene 15 at Changi airport en route to Bali to drink there.

Bought a pint of Scotch in Heathrow to drink in Egypt.

Brought a miniature of Glenfiddich 18 to drink on the flight home a few times.

Never bought to bring home , pricing not competitive vs California. If on your way to Muslim country, might be worth it due to local pricing and drinking restrictions.

The Gatwick shop was great too, but it’s been 20+ years since I’ve been there.

Flew through Houston not too long ago and was salivating over the special Jack Daniels barrel finishes they had.
It crossed my mind to offer something to someone who could buy them, but I figured I didn’t want to extend my stay in Houston zero star accommodations.

I buy rum (Seven Fathoms) when I return from the Caymans. Only because it’s not imported into the US

Northern NY, go to CA often, and hit Duty Free on the way back. Last week bought 6 bottles of Crown Royal Blackberry for son…apparently hard to get in the states. I almost always get me a bottle of Masi Amarone for $35. Yeah on Duty Free.
Yes, we did pay duty, but it’s only, I think, $2.80 a bottle for booze.