Changi Airport DFS Duplex Store: A New Wine & Liquor Retail Experience!

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Earlier this month, DFS Singapore opened its brand new Wine & Liquor Duplex Store at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3. Not only is it the world’s largest in-airport wine and liquor store, it also happens to be the first double storey one. On this day, we (TK and I) were invited by DFS Singapore and the Changi Airport Group for a first glimpse at this new concept store.



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Façade of the new DFS duplex, just past the outbound immigration checkpoint at Changi Airport Terminal 3.

Given the hype over the concept and the interior design (by award-winning designer Masamichi Katayama), the exterior was a tad unimpressive; a box cladded in glass with the usual product displays decked out plainly for travelers to see.

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The new price comparison machine at the duplex store.



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A close-up of the price comparison screen showing the price of a bottle of Johnnie Walker Double Black Label in airports around the region.

But hints of this DFS store’s uniqueness started to show when we were first brought to a console by the side of a shelf. DFS staff perform price checks on a monthly basis against wines and liquors sold at the major airports in the region in order to ensure that prices in Singapore are the lowest. Visitors can check out the savings they enjoy at DFS Singapore by scanning the product’s barcode at this machine in the store. I found the interactive element it added to the buying process mildly refreshing, a departure from the “buy and go” mindset most harried travelers (like myself) have.

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View of the center atrium and bar from the second storey

We were told that the aisles in the store were specially designed to be more than wide enough for travelers to comfortably push their luggage trolleys around. The layout and design of the outer store seemed pretty much similar to the other DFS stores at the airport, with the clean and bright lighting and white floor tiles.

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Close-up view of the liquors on display. We were told by the staff that these were actual bottles of liquor meant for sale!

The revelation came when we entered the inner half of the store. The white tile flooring gave way to warmly-coloured brown tiles. The ceiling space doubled and gave way to a pristine palm tree-like structure that blossomed upward, instantaneously drawing one’s view up to a second surprise – endless walls of liquor on display, 998 bottles to be precise.

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The bar, a space where up to 3 brands can showcase their products or hold promotional events for customers of the store. The bartenders will gladly talk to you about the brand, its liquors, and of course, mix you a drink, at no cost.

The glowing palm tree was definitely the main attraction and literal centerpiece of the duplex store, housing a bar featuring different brands of liquor. While we were there, the bar featured liquors from Glenfiddich, Hendrick’s, and Benedictine D.O.M.  Standing around the bar were several travelers enjoying the rather unusual but interesting experience of sampling and learning about liquors at a bar in an airport liquor store. The free drinks and relaxed atmosphere will probably be a pleasant surprise for anyone travelling out of Changi Airport for the first time.

The second storey of the duplex store held more surprises. The contrasting quietness and emptiness suggested exclusivity and privacy, and perhaps a more intimate experience. The second floor houses 9 branded boutiques that showcase the rich heritage of brands that include Dom Perignon, Johnnie Walker, Hendrick’s and Absolut.

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The prized bottle of Dalmore 60-year Single Malt Scoth Whisky, the most expensive single bottle of liquor in the store.

Our first destination was “The Lounge”. An exclusive members-only space decorated with prize-collection liquors, it was also furnished with a couple of armchairs and side tables where one can enjoy some prized liquor while waiting for their next flight. The exclusive collection is sourced annually from vineyards, distilleries and breweries, bringing the rarest and most exquisite liquors to customers of DFS Singapore. Prices here run from 5-to 6-figures: definitely not for your casual traveler!

The Wine Reserve was the next area, featuring a wide variety of vintage and limited-edition wines. It was staffed by Jenny, who promptly introduced us to the wines on display. Amongst them included a 6-litre bottle of wine commemorating Penfolds’ 170th Anniversary last year, housed in a precious wooden crate crafted by the grand-nephew of Queen Elizabeth II. Travelers wishing to try out new wines can also sample a small selection from an Enomatic automated-decanter in this area.

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Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman sharing with us the process that goes into creating the various casks of single malt whiskey.

And at last, the highlight of our visit was meeting and interacting with Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman. While he flew into Singapore specially for the opening of the DFS duplex store, travelers can look forward to future events at this duplex store featuring blenders, distillers, and winemakers from around the world.

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Some of the Glenfiddich Single Malts visitors can try. On the table is a small section talking about how the selection of the wooden cask can influence a whiskey’s flavour profile.

Without further ado Mr Kinsman introduced us to Glenfiddich’s various single malt whiskeys and the processes involved in their creation. We were intrigued by the range of flavours and smells that different whiskeys brought forth, from the smooth sweetness and warm aftertaste of the 25-year to the spicy and volatile flavour of the Residence Cask. It was certainly an educational session for us, who knew nothing about whiskey, where we learnt about the variety of flavours, textures and fragrances that constituted a blend’s uniqueness.

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The familiar sign and design details at the Long Bar in the DFS duplex. Bartenders undergo training at the original bar before being staffed here.

Situated at the end of the corridor of branded boutiques, the Long Bar by Raffles Hotel was a nice, casual area where travelers can sit down with a drink while awaiting departure.

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The bartenders serving us efficiently and expertly

It was staffed by bartenders trained at the hotel’s famous Long Bar, even its décor and furnishing had a similar colonial vintage flavour. We requested for their signature Singapore Sling and the bartenders got a-bustling with the sudden influx of orders. Though it was just a small area, design details like the marble countertop and the leather high chairs recreated, to an extent, the ambience at the original bar. You would be glad to know that travelers are entitled to free cocktails and drinks at this bar – just make sure that you don’t miss your flight! Bartenders will be on hand to mix your drink between 11am and 1am daily; outisde of these hours, other staff will only be able to provide liquors served neat or on the rocks.

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A delicious glass of Singapore Sling while we contemplated some of the other drinks on the menu.

We took the opportunity to wander about the various brand-sections of the store, and were impressed by the interactivity of the displays.

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The Hendrick’s machine that diagnoses you with conditions like “Nefervescence”, “Trouble-Vision”, and “Knickertwist”. Definitely a fun excuse to imbibe more drinks!

Right across from the Long Bar, Hendrick’s section was detailed like an apothecary, down to a helmet contraption for diagnosing the cause of your “not enjoying your glass of gin”. Perhaps a little bit uninhibited from the alcohol, we put on the quirky-looking contraption for a diagnosis.

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TK getting diagnosed. Unfortunately, he had a case of “Trouble-Vision”! Fortunately, this was easily cured with a drop of medicine from the “Trouble-Vision” bottle in a glass of Gin and Tonic.

Rows of corresponding ‘cures’ were contained in brown-tinted glass bottles that wouldn’t look out of place in your school lab.

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The cure for all our ailments, and the answer to life’s problems.

We eventually found to our amusement that the content of every prescribed cure for the various ailments was basically, Hendrick’s Gin.

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The Johnnie Walker boutique. On the right wall is a ‘nosing’ booth where customers can educate their noses about the different aromas that are characteristic of whiskey.

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Jianyi getting a whiff of dried fruits at the Johnnie Walker nosing booth. Surprisingly, we were gradually getting educated about the intricacies of whiskey tasting.

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These glasses at the Macallan boutique were filled with intense smells that were slightly easier to pick out.

Other brand’s sections endeavoured to be more ‘edu-torial’ in nature; the basic LCD screen running a video-loop was present at almost all other sections. Macallan and Johnnie Walker, however, had ‘nosing’ booths that built on what we had experienced first-hand at Glenfiddich. These booths sought to encapsulate the essence of various nosing notes one may encounter when smelling or tasting a whiskey, and was a fun attempt at teaching us to identify and name the different smells. Rows of glasses (or holes in the wall in Johnnie Walker’s case) contained or dispensed the smell of oak, vanilla, dried fruits, toffee, chocolate, citrus, spices, peat smoke, malty chocolate, fresh green apple. TK’s personal favourites were oak and toffee.

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TK learning about Hennessy whiskeys at the Kinect-powered interactive display.

Needless to say, we had quite a bit of fun and education at the various branded boutiques, like the interactive displays at Henessy and Dom Perignon, and the cognac “perfumes” at Martell. We highly recommend travelers who have a bit of time before departure to pop by the store!

Just before we left the store, we were curious and asked about the driving concept behind the store. It turns out that the entire store was built around providing customers with rich, lasting experiences with these brands, beyond just the purchase and sale of tangible goods. While the outer ring of the store attends to the regular needs of consumers, an inner ring entices with its wondrous display. Heading up the escalator, visitors will be brought on a journey to appreciate and be educated on the artistry and heritage behind notable spirits and wines, some with over 200 years of history. The bland “glass box” was in reality a treasure chest to be discovered and appreciated, prompting a more thoughtful, appreciative approach the next time we sip from any glass of liquor. We will definitely make an effort to arrive at Changi airport the next time we travel – with the interactive displays, regualr promotional events, and free drinks, who wouldn’t?

This guest article was written by Chen Jianyi

Many thanks to Shu Qin and Kai Fong from the Changi Airport Group for hosting us, and to Justin for giving us this opportunity to write for the blog!