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A ’20s Speakeasy-Inspired Airport Bar Serving Whisky to Transiting Travellers

By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

At the DFS Whisky Festival pop-up bar’s opening night (3 May) were actors Lawrence Wong, Benjamin Kheng and Desmond Tan.
At the DFS Whisky Festival pop-up bar’s opening night (3 May) were actors Lawrence Wong, Benjamin Kheng and Desmond Tan.

The reverberating swing of a rich, husky vocal travels down the carpeted corridor of Changi Airport Terminal 3’s departure transit area. A rhythmic scatting, accompanied by the syncopes of a tune played on a piano, follows. If it wasn’t evident to some, it is now: It’s live jazz — in the middle of an international airport. Not what the everyday traveller would expect to encounter.

The DFS Whisky Festival has returned for its fourth edition. This time, as a pop-up airport bar. Situated at the intersection between the departure transit area’s shops and gates, travellers, who have waiting time to kill and would like a decent pre-flight nightcap, can pop in for a slice of the ’20s speakeasy experience. Taking inspiration from whisky’s maturation journey in its cask, the bar’s decor is structured out of oak wood that was formerly used as whisk staves. As jazzy tunes swirl from a nearby stage, travellers are invited to lounge and sip on whisky, served neat. And perhaps if it strikes their fancy, they can ask well-versed bartenders of the intricacy that goes behind the liqueur: its making process, cask maturation, its impact on colour, aroma and taste.

DFSThe festival’s live jazz singer (left) and select whisky launch exclusives (right).
The festival’s live jazz singer (left) and select whisky launch exclusives (right).

As the old saying that likens whiskey to “liquid sunshine”, it’s more than just a beverage one downs. The tradition of whisky drinking has always been entangled with the entirety of its process, from how it is malted to how it should be served.

At the festival’s airport bar are programmes dedicated to just that: whisky tastings and vaporisers showcasing scents for patrons to differentiate their nuances, be it floral or smoky and intense. There are over 400 whiskies, with several exclusive to DFS. Highlights include Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10, Compass Box No Name, No.2, Glenmorangie Rare Cask 1399, Johnnie Walker Black Triple Cask Edition and Royal Salute 21 Year Old Lost Blend.

After this launch at Changi Airport, the festival will continue to travel to seven DFS locations across Asia, the Middle East, North America and Hawaii.

Travellers who missed the pop-up bar can enjoy complimentary tastings of up to three different whiskies from DFS’ expansive collection (boarding pass and passport required) at The Tasting Bar at Terminal 2 Duplex’s Central Mix-It Bar, Long Bar by Raffles at Terminal 3 Duplex and The Whiskey House at Terminal 4 Departure Central — still replete with live jazz performances. Bacardi ambassador Mike Cheong (14 and 15 June) and Moët Hennessy’s Brendan McCarron (22 and 23 June) will be on-site to share and delve deeper into the art that goes into whisky making.

The DFS Whisky Festival’s pop-up bar ran from 3 May till June 10 at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3, Departure Transit, Concourse Space.

For the month of June, travellers who spend S$200 on any whisky from the Departure Hall store will receive a branded Glencairn whisky glass. Arriving travellers who spend S$140 (per passport) including any whisky prorduct(s) will receive a pair of ferry tickets and city tour to Batam (worth S$70). In-store promotions run till 30 June.