Compass Box Whisky targets travel retail with focused offering and first GTR exclusive

In a duty free industry where many airport stores carry mostly the same spirits no matter where you are in the world, Compass Box Blended Scotch Whisky offers something out of the ordinary, Maurice Doyle, Compass Box CEO tells Travel Markets Insider.

“Compass Box exists to inspire moments of joy, by making the world of scotch whisky a more interesting place. When the brand was created, and still to some extent now, the world of scotch whisky can be a little conservative. It can be a little ‘samey.’ But we want to do something different, a bit more fun. And that’s been what the brand has really been all about,” says Doyle.

“There is a consumer out there who travels a lot and is looking for something different. They’re looking for something that isn’t necessarily mainstream. Compass Box allows them to showcase their individuality. Compass Box can be a bit of a disruptor. We add some fun, add some color, add some creativity.”

Compass Box’s first travel retail exclusive product The Travelling Circus.

Since it was founded in 2000 by John Glazer, Compass Box has been trying to disrupt the scotch whisky industry. But Compass Box itself is now undergoing its own transformation.

In March, Glazer announced he was stepped down from the company he created more than two decades ago. In February, Compass Box announced the appointment of Jeff Popkin as President, Americas, overseeing the U.S., Canada and Latin America.

Doyle himself joined Compass Box in April 2022 at the same time the company named London-based Caelum Capital as its majority shareholder. Doyle previously was Managing Director at Bacardi Global Travel Retail, and also worked at William Grant & Sons and Suntory.

Doyle’s familiarity with Compass Box goes back to his time with Bacardi, who were previously minority investors in the brand.

“I have been a fan of Compass Box about 15 years. I’ve always loved Compass Box and always believed the brand to be bigger than it is. Every liquid is delicious.” In fact, Compass Box was named the no 5 World’s Most Admired Whisky in 2023 by Drinks International.

The United States remains Compass Box’s biggest and most important market, making up 50% of its business. The company has been building its resources in the country and growing its team there.

“And we’ve been investing more in our priority markets with the U.S. as a very big one. France, Germany, and China are big markets. The UK as a home market will also be quite important,” says Doyle.

Compass Box is trying to drive name recognition in all these important markets.

“All our labels have got this element of detail. There is a trend towards minimalism. We go maximalist. We are still keeping these wonderful labels, but we’re going be building up the brand. Going forward the name Compass Box will be larger on all labels. We’ve got investment in marketing which is happening in domestic markets, which will drive awareness. We have more money than we had before and we’re looking to invest more. And ultimately, it’s an awareness game.”

Global travel retail is another priority market, and last year Compass Box partnered with wine and spirits travel retail specialists Duty Free Global to grow its business in the sector.

“I think Duty Free Global really understand our brand. And they’re great partners. We call ourselves independent whiskey makers so we work very well with people who are independently minded. We love people who are passionate and the entire Duty Free Global team are really passionate,” says Doyle.

“Compass Box is a brand that we think should be strong and relevant in travel retail. And we think it adds a lot for the operators.”

Compass Box’s first travel retail exclusive product The Travelling Circus made its debut in the channel with Dubai Duty Free.

Compass Box will feature two main SKUs in travel retail, and has also just launched its first travel retail exclusive product.

“We had a previous experience in travel retail which we’ve taken some learnings from. One of the things we wanted to do is be more focused, because we had probably, in retrospect, too many SKUs that were available to travel retail. We now have two best sellers– Peat Monster and Orchard House. All around the world, these two are bestsellers. And so we decided we will start the story there in travel retail,” says Doyle. “But then we also wanted to offer something that was very exclusive for travel retail. And so we’ve been working with Duty Free Global on coming up with The Travelling Circus.”

Compass Box’s first travel retail exclusive The Travelling Circus was launched in April in Dubai Duty Free, alongside The Peat Monster and Orchard House.

The Travelling Circus was inspired by one of Compass Box’s most iconic and sought after Limited Editions called The Circus which was launched back in 2016.

Doyle says to expect to see The Peat Monster and Orchard House in travel retail locations throughout the world while The Travelling Circus will be in more exclusive distribution.