Having written, read and heard a lot about the Scotch whisky industry’s great success in premiumisation, a browse through Les Caves at Charles de Gaulle Airport should perhaps have been less surprising than it actually was.

Sometimes, however, you need to witness something first-hand to take it in fully.

And the prices being commanded for Scotch at Les Caves at Terminal 2E, and the amount of shelf and display space given over to Scotland’s national drink really did bring home just how successful the drive by the industry towards ever-greater premiumisation has been.

From a brief look around the store, it appears the space dedicated to Scotch whisky is about three times that occupied by Champagne. And Scotch’s presence in the store looks to be about six times that of Cognac. This seems like quite a feat, given we’re in Paris, albeit the Air France terminal is serving passengers from all over the world.

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The shelves are packed with all sorts of limited and special editions and expressions.

Among the offerings is a 70-centilitre (cl) bottle of Edrington’s The Macallan Enigma, at 376 euros (equivalent to 537.14 euros a litre) for customers travelling within the European Union, or 313 euros duty free.

Then there is a 70cl bottle of William Grant & Sons’ Glenfiddich Grande Couronne 26-year-old at 610 euros for travellers within the EU or 508 euros duty free.

A one-litre bottle of Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Blue Label Xordinaire (with an XO Cognac cask finish) comes in at 354.17 euros duty free, or at 425 euros for people travelling within the EU.

And a litre of Johnnie Walker Blue Label is 296 euros for travellers within the EU or 246.67 euros duty free.

The previous day in Auber RER station, during a brief, random conversation, a fellow traveller on hearing a Scottish accent had asked how much a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label cost in Scotland. It was a question which demonstrated quite simply the power of the big international brands.

A few days earlier, in the Royal Trinite restaurant in the ninth arrondissement, a waiter had rhymed off “whisky” and “salmon” instantly after inquiring where we were from, something which should perhaps bring a smile to the faces of those involved in Scotland’s export promotion efforts.

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Of course, Scotch whisky is not something that it is difficult to sell in France.

In the first half of last year, France regained its position as the largest export market for Scotch whisky by volume, even though, at the equivalent of 88 million bottles of 70cl, exports to the country were down by 12.6% on the 101 million for the opening six months of 2022. France had been overtaken by India as the largest market by volume for Scotch in 2022.

What is particularly interesting in the export figures for France, and seems like a good demonstration of premiumisation, is that the value of Scotch whisky exports to the country in the first half of 2023 was at £235 million up by 4% on the opening six months of 2022 (in spite of the sharp drop in volume).

And, in 2022, the value of Scotch whisky exports to France was, at £488m, up by 26% on 2021. France has for years been the second-largest export market for Scotch by value, behind the US.

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Global exports of Scotch whisky topped £6 billion in 2022 - the first year in which this has been achieved.

The Scotch Whisky Association noted that the value of the industry’s exports in the first half of 2023 was, at £2.57bn, “down just 3.6%” on the same period of 2022.

It noted that, on the same time comparison, the volume of Scotch exports fell by 20% to the equivalent of 630 million 70cl bottles, adding: “This continues the global trend of consumers premiumising in the spirits category, trading up within the Scotch whisky industry to premium blended Scotch whisky, single malt and, increasingly, blended malt Scotch whisky.

“Consumers are drinking fewer units of alcohol, but premiumisation builds value in the UK economy through increased production, investment and export, and benefits the domestic economies of export markets through excise tax and other related costs.”

The travel retail sector is obviously a little different in nature to general shopping. The importance of this segment to the Scotch whisky industry and to luxury goods manufacturers in general was underlined amid the pandemic when things at times ground to a near-halt on this front.

However, notwithstanding that the travel retail sector has its own particular characteristics, the trip to Les Caves brought home not only the premium nature of Scotch across a wide range of price brackets but also the powerful and astute marketing efforts behind the impressive drive upmarket.

There is a stand of “limited edition”, “special releases” from Diageo, including a 70cl bottle of 12-year-old Lagavulin at 216 euros for passengers within the EU or 180 euros duty free. The same size of bottle of 11-year-old Oban comes in at 192 euros or 160 euros.

Of course, there is something for everyone in Les Caves on the Scotch whisky front, with a range of blended Scotch whiskies at lower prices, such as a bottle of Grant’s at 16 euros duty free or 19 euros for passengers within the EU.

A bottle of Glenmorangie 10-year-old comes in at 36 euros for travellers within the EU or 43 euros duty free (under a “best-sellers at best price” label) which it should be noted, while a lot less expensive than some of the other single malts, is still a price that quite rightly reflects a premium offering.

The majority of the Scotch whisky space is dedicated to more expensive offerings, and the amount of thought and creativity that has gone into much of the packaging is almost as eye-catching as the prices.

It all points to a Scotch whisky sector in fine health which, in these difficult economic times, is most certainly a cause for cheer.