Just got back from a wee trip to the Latvian capitol, Riga – and thought I’d post a snippet about it. Not much of a destination for whisky-lovers as the local seem to have picked Cognac as their foreign-luxury drink of choice. For every day it seems like beer and vodka are the preferred drinks.
When it comes to whisk(e)y it seem’s that Tullamore Dew has done one heck of a job marketing their products to pubs and shops, as the standard Tullamore is found almost everywhere. Most points-of-sale offer the standard stuff (JW, JD, JB, JJ etc), but when it comes to malts the selection is far from standardized, with shops/chains having differing offerings. Not a great many, but a small handfull in each store. Wine shops (specially the posh ones) go for the premium brands (Glenmorangie and it’s like), supermarkets go for big sellers (Fiddich) and then it’s the fun shops – the small corner shops. Here you can be bitterly disappointed (no whiskies at all) or really surprised (BenRiach, Bruichladdich, Arran!!!).
A small shop close to my hotel (Krisspunkts I think it was called – possibly part of a chain of small stores) had a nice selection of drinks, though the malts were few but nice ones (BenRiach Curiositas beeing one), and very different from the supermarkets and other off-licenses. The whole store was dedicated to drink: beer, cider, a couple of wines, crips, soft drinks and liqour of all kinds. As I’ve tried the ones they had to offer before I passed on them and picked up a bottle of Jamacian Rum instead (Appelton Estate 12yo) for only LVL16 (ca. £20) – the price in Norway is close to £60.
At the airport on my way back I checked out the Duty-Free shops. The first one, EuroShop, has a mix of traditional Duty Free goods, plus perfumes and cosmetics. Very small shop with limited selection. Quite a standard selection of malts with one standing out: Talisker 57° North for a mere LVL30 (a bit higher for EU-travellers) or £39 for a litre. The Duty Free price in Norway is a staggering 645NOK or £65 for a litre. The shop next door, BTV, didn’t have anything more of interest so a bottle of Talisker came home with me. Nothing else was of interest as they were more expensive than the arrival-Duty Free in Norway. A bit further down the terminal (close to the fast track) a third duty-free store. This was a luxury shop with only the finest of the fine, with prices to match. Some of them were even higher than the Norwegian monopoly-stores, so after a quick browse I was on my way back to Norway. A bottle of Macallan 10yo Cask Strength was picked up in the Duty Free upon arrival in Norway, and after a few hours rest and a good night sleep it was back to work again.
All in all the stay was very pleasant, and I’d like to return someday. But as a destination to discovery new whiskies it’s not to be reccomended. It’s best enjoyed as a relaxing get-away, where one can enjoy good food, good beer, friendly people and facinating architecture.