The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is about more than just raising a glass to Scotland’s national drink – it’s a unique opportunity to learn about the people and the passion behind some of the finest whiskies in the world.
The annual festival draws thousands of visitors from all over the globe and takes place this year from May 2-6. It boasts a packed programme of over 300 events in the heart of the world’s best known whisky region.
And this year – the Year of Natural Scotland – there will be even more emphasis on the stunning scenery of Speyside and how its breathtaking landscape contributes to the unique qualities of local drams.
A unique Scotch whisky event
Festival manager Mary Hemsworth says organisers are looking forward to welcoming back old festival friends, as well as those who will be attending the internationally renowned event for the first time.
“There is no whisky festival on earth quite like the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival,” she says. “Our festival is not just about introducing visitors to whisky – it’s about the passion, the tradition and the people involved in producing the inimitable whisky of this region.
“More than 300 events will be staged over five incredible days, with something to offer everyone from the aficionados to complete whisky novices. From tasting sessions and our world-class whisky school to canoe tours and ‘drambles’ between our famous distilleries, our festival partners have shown real imagination and innovation in putting together a truly remarkable programme of events.
“The Year of Natural Scotland gives us the opportunity to celebrate our natural environment and how it contributes to the craft behind our whisky, helping to make it instantly distinguishable from other malt whiskies.”
Scotland’s most varied whisky region
The Speyside region contains more than half of all Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries – over 50 in total – but don’t think that once you have seen one distillery, you have seen them all! Each distillery is different and produces whisky in a way to give it its own distinct set of characteristics. During the Festival, a huge number of distilleries will open their doors for public tours, nosings and tastings – including some which are usually closed to the public.
There will be opportunities to taste rare and valuable malts, participate in master classes, fill an octave (small cask), and even cast a vote by tasting six shortlisted drams in the running for the Festival’s 2013 Whisky Awards. And if you have ever wondered which whisky is best paired with a bacon butty, there’s even an event for that too!
Food plays a major part in the programme with special lunches and dinners taking place daily across a range of venues, and in the evening there will be the chance to kick up your heels with the locals at ceilidhs and traditional music events.
A chance to get to know Speyside
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival aims to capture everything that is wonderful about the region’s links to the industry, and the programme does not stop at distilleries. Enjoy a ride on the Whisky Train, visit themed art and photographic exhibitions, learn more about the mighty River Spey with a canoe trip from Carron to Craigellachie, unlock the past history of Speyside’s first illicit stills by following in the footsteps of smugglers, and even enjoy a guided walk to the top of Ben Rinnes to spot the local wildlife.
Mary adds, “One thing which we treasure most about Speyside is its tranquillity and laid-back pace of life, but that all changes during the five days of the whisky festival. The area is quite literally buzzing as thousands of visitors arrive and join in locals in celebrating Scotch whisky – I cannot think of a better way to encapsulate the true Spirit of Speyside.”
Many events take place in Dufftown – the town largely regarded as the malt whisky capital of the world – but the programme takes in venues all the way from Aviemore in the south to Elgin in the north. A subsidised shuttle bus and taxi service will be operating between all the venues – grab yourself a Festival Rambler ticket from the website to make sure you can enjoy some warm Speyside hospitality.
Tickets for all events in the 2013 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme can be bought via the Spirt of Speyside website