Purchasing whisky in Norway, Part 2: Duty Free

As Norway is rather an expensive country when it comes to alcohol, the duty free-option is very popular. And since Norway isn’t part of the European Union (EU) one still can get alcoholic beverages absolutely tax free, just like in the good old days. This can cut cost drastically for Norwegians and visitors. This can be experienced by all visiting Norway, either by plane or ferry.

Most ferry-companies mostly survive on the sale of duty free-items (alcohol, tobacco, sweets and perfume). The ferries, that run between Norway and Denmark/Germany (the Norway-UK route is being cancelled later this year), have set aside huge areas for shopping. The whisky selection differs greatly between the ferry companies. DFDS tends to have both better selection and prices, while Stena Line and Color Line trails on both counts (though the Color Line route of Kiel-Oslo is better on both fields than all Denmark-Norway routes).

All Norwegian airports with direct flights abroad have a Duty Free (Tax Free) shop open both on arrival and departure. Only the shops on five of the biggest airports have a website. All carry the most known brands, but remember the smaller the airport (and number of passangers going abroad) the smaller the selection.

When travelling to Norway most EU-airports have a small selection of tax free items, reserved for those who are travelling outside the EU. The selection tends to be small and for whisky enthusiasts rather meagre. The selection tends to comprise of the biggest sellers (Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam) and a couple of others. If one wants to get something special one has to go to the “duty free-prices”-departement, which as a rule tends to be more expensive than shops downtown (they tend to compare with “high street prices”, but these are the highest prices they have found, and can’t be relied on).

As previously said Norway is a haven of tax free in Europe, together with Switzerland, Iceland, the former Yugoslav republics, Turkey, Belarus and Ukraine. Some of the latter have very low taxes on alcohol, so tax free doesn’t mean much there. But here in Norway it means heaps, something one can experience when arriving, leaving or even onboard the plane.

If one travels to Norway on one of the low cost carriers (Sterling, Norwegian or RyanAir) you’re guranteed to get a duty free pitch on one or several occations on your flight. And do not be surprised to see hands flying up to signal they want to purchase something. But alas for us whiskynuts the selections tend to be limited to a couple of blends and maybe Glenfiddich 12yo at best.

Three years ago the Norwegian government allowed duty free (tax free) shopping on arrival, as well as the usual departure shopping. This means that all travellers arriving by plane can utilize the duty free (tax free) shop upon landing in Norway, before claming ones luggage and clearing customs. Mostly it’s the same shops on departure and arrival, with the exeption of the Oslo and Tromsø (Tromso) airports. For the major airports (Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger and Kristiansand) the selection and prices can be found online: Duty Free Norway. When it comes to whisky the selection isn’t the best in the world, this due to most Norwegians obsession with Cognac. But the selection is better than most EU-airports tax free-assortment, and the prices are mostly the same – though, depending on the rate of exchange, Norwegian airports are held to be among the cheapest in Europe.

If one wants to drink alcohol while in Norway, the cheapest thing is to pruchase a bottle of duty free before entering the country as the savings compared to domestic Norway can be quite substantial, more on this in a later entry. Depending on the price levels abroad there will often be something to save by buying duty free insted of in domestic shops. But the thing that makes is worth checking out the airport or ferry shops for us:Travel Retail Exclusives! Several whisky companies produces special editions purely for sale in what’s known as the Travel Retail-marked (airports, ferries, planes and border shops). These bottlings are not available in the domestic marked (although some of the best whiskyshops tend to get their hands on some bottles). A quick check on the Norwegian Duty Free-page revels the following that are available at some of the major Norwegian airports, but not domesticly (at Vinmonopolet) – TRE =Travel Retail Exclusive (or belive to be):

  • Aberfeldy 12yo
  • Aberlour 12yo Sherry Cask Matured (TRE)
  • Aberlour 15yo Double Cask Matured (TRE)
  • An Cnoc 12yo
  • Auchentoshan Select (TRE – discontinued product)
  • Balblair Vintage 1986 (TRE)
  • Bowmore Surf (TRE – more or less identical with Legend)
  • Bowmore 12yo Enigma (TRE)
  • Bowmore 15yo Mariner (TRE)
  • Cardhu Special Cask Reserve (originally made for Spain)
  • Glen Elgin 12yo
  • Glenfarclas Family Casks (several vintages)
  • Glengoyne Burnfoot (TRE)
  • Glengoyne Single Cask 20yo (TRE)
  • Glenrothes Vintage 1994
  • Highland Park 16yo (TRE)
  • Macallan 10yo Cask Strength
  • Macallan 12yo Elegancia (TRE)
  • Macallan 1851 Inspiration (TRE)
  • Macallan Fine Oak Maker’s Selection (TRE)
  • Smokehead Extra Rare (TRE)
  • Talisker 57° North (TRE)
  • The Glenliver Nadurra 16yo 48% (TRE)
  • The Singleton of Dufftown 12yo (TRE)
  • The Singleton of Dufftown 15yo (TRE)

Just a note at the end. Remeber that it’s only allowed to bring 1 (one) litre of spirits into Norway without paying additional taxes. For anything beyond that, upto a total of 5 litres, it’s 180 NOK (£17,67/€22.46) per bottle (0,7l). If coming with more than 5 litres per person, a license to do so is needed.


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