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Latest News from the Spirit of Speyside 2013

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Honours Ambassadors - Friday 3rd May, 2013

Speyside Whisky Festival 2012The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has honoured three stalwarts who have made an outstanding contribution to the event and the wider whisky industry.  Three ambassadors – two of them from overseas - were presented with awards for spreading the word about Scotland’s national drink at home and abroad at the Festival launch last night (Thursday, 2 May 2013).

The first of the trio to receive ambassador awards is Michael Lord, who runs renowned store The Whisky Shop in Dufftown – the epicentre of the Speyside whisky industry. Mike, who is originally from Leicestershire, discovered his love for single malt as a student when he bought a bottle of The Macallan.  He first came to Speyside to spend Hogmanay at the Craigellachie Hotel and since then has been committed whisky aficionado. 

He bought the shop seven years ago and has transformed into a world renowned business: Whisky Magazine awarded him an Icon of Whisky in 2012 for best Whisky Shop in Scotland (Single Outlet).  He’s an independent bottler, having done 12 of his own bottlings, and is a regular judge in numerous whisky competitions.

Keith Savage, a freelance travel writer and creator of Traveling Savage - a website dedicated to exploring Scotland – became an International Ambassador. Living in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, Keith is a relative newcomer to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, having first visited last year. However, the event made an incredible impression on him raves about meeting some of the Speyside region’s leading experts during his trip. He believes he has visited 40 of Scotland's distilleries – and plans to tick off even more.

The final recipient is London-based Canadian ex-pat Alwynne Gwilt who, in 2011, created the website Miss Whisky out of a desire to widen her knowledge of whisky and to help increase the number of females writing about the spirit.  Her love affair with the water of life started in 2008 with a tasting in Soho’s Milroy Whisky Shop.  The aim of Miss Whisky is to provide a wide range of content relating to the whisky industry – from features, to news, reviews and profiles of the women who work in this sector – and to show that whisky is a drink that appeals to a larger demographic than it has been advertised to in the past.

Festival manager Mary Hemsworth is delighted that the event will be recognising three people who have made such an astonishing contribution over the years. She says, “All ambassadors share a love of whisky, its culture and its heritage.  In their individual style they each bring Scotland’s finest spirit to a new, global audience, and we’re delighted to be able to highlight and reward their work for both the industry and the Festival.”

The awards were presented by Festival Chairman James Campbell last night at the Festival’s gala dinner, which was held at The Glenlivet Distillery. The Spirit of Speyside Festival 2013 runs until Monday, 6 May. 2013.  Visitors will be able to discover the delights of the dram with tours and tastings at many of the area's  distilleries, explore the great outdoors against the beautiful backdrop of Speyside's spectacular scenery and uncover the spirited history of the region that was home to some of the first smugglers' stills. To find out more visit www.spiritofspeyside.com

Rare and Limited Edition Whisky Goes Under The Hammer to Help Worthy Cause - 30th April, 2013

Whisky connoisseurs will raise a glass to the start of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival later this week, and they might well be returning home with a very special souvenir of their visit to the spiritual home of Scotland’s national drink.

Fourteen bottles of rare and limited edition whiskies will be going under the hammer at an auction taking place at the opening gala dinner, which takes place at The Glenlivet Distillery on Thursday, 2 May.

Each of the bottles has been kindly donated by distilleries based in the Speyside area. Many of them, from limited bottlings are no longer available to buy in the UK. The auction will be conducted by experts from Bonham’s Edinburgh auction house who will be on hand to ensure as much money as possible is raised for the festival’s chosen charity.

Bidders can get their hands on special malts including Limited Edition Tamdhu 10 Years Old, which will be launched during the festival to celebrate the reopening and relaunch of Tamdhu Distillery. The bottle is No. 2 of a mere 1000 released worldwide, with the distillery retaining the first bottle of the batch.

Bidders can also bid for a special edition bottle of Gordon and MacPhail Glen Grant 1965 Single Malt which was bottled in 2009. The malt, which has never been commercially available, was bottled to celebrate whisky merchants Gordon and MacPhail receiving The Queen’s Award for International Trade.

Amongst the other exclusive whiskies being auctioned is a bottle of Glen Grant 170th, bottled to commemorate 170 years of distillation at Glen Grant Distillery and featuring the finest selection of vintage whiskies from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Others of note include a three litre bottle of the Glenfarclas Cask Strength 105 – a 60% ABV malt which was the first commercially available cask strength whisky on the market; a 20-year-old from Auchroisk, which rarely produces single malts; and several bottles of Eau de Robbidou from Glenfiddich. These perfume-style bottles are not available for sale – they are only ever presented by the distillery as gifts - and are highly unusual in that although they contain a spirit that is technically Scotch whisky, the use of non-traditional casks in maturation process means that they are outside the strict Scotch Whisky Association regulations on what can be classed as Scotch whisky.

The proceeds generated during the evening will be donated to the Moray Immediate Care Scheme, the Spirit of Speyside Festival’s chosen charity for 2013, which plays an important role in responding to medical emergencies around Speyside and Moray.

Festival Chairman, James Campbell commented, “The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is essentially a community event that involves a wide range of businesses from small local B&B’s to large multinational distilleries, and so it is only right that the festival gives something back to the community.   

“The Moray Immediate Care Scheme is a very worthy cause in our local area and we hope that the vast array of distinctive and limited edition whiskies attract a great deal of attention to raise as much money as possible for the special cause.”

With over 370 events set to take place at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, ticket sales for the events have already broken records.  Further information about the programme and tickets are available at www.spiritofspeyside.com

Turning Japanese – Whisky Bar In The Heart of Speyside Breaks With Tradition

Duncan Elphick - Turning Japanese – Whisky Bar In The Heart of Speyside Breaks With TraditionWhile some malt whisky enthusiasts claim they will go to the ends of the earth in pursuit of their passion, Speyside hotelier Duncan Elphick has just about done that.

Not only does he make frequent 18,000-mile round trips to Japan to promote single malt Scotch whisky but his Highlander Inn in Craigellachie – the heart of Scotland’s malt whisky industry - has the largest collection of Japanese single malts outside south-east Asia.

And for the past 12 years Duncan has employed experts directly from Japan to ensure that his customers and the hundreds of whisky connoisseurs who visit each year get the full Japanese malt whisky experience.

Until recently the role of whisky ‘otaku’ –it translates roughly as fanatic-was held by Yumi Yoshikawa who is about to return to Japan. Her successor, Mayu Hamanisi, from Osaka is expected take up her role at the Highander Inn, recently voted one of the top 50 whisky bars in the world by the influential Whisky Magazine, in a few weeks’ time.

Duncan, who is gearing up for an influx of visitors during the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival from May 2-6, says, “My own journey into the world of malt whisky began with a visit to the Glenfiddich Distillery in l979 and I have been on that journey ever since. You just never stop learning and finding out something new.

“Just because the hotel is at the very epicentre of the Speyside whisky industry, I have no problem whatsoever in stocking and displaying Japanese malt whisky alongside our collection of around 400 different malts from Scotland.

“But if anyone questions it, I remind them that a Japanese single malt -Yamazaki 25- year- old - has been voted the best single malt in the world for the past four years running.”

Only 200 were released in Europe and there is a bottle of the precious liquid behind the bar at the Highlander Inn. Even at £50 for a small measure, quite a few have been enjoyed over the years.

The winning whisky was made by the Suntory company which was founded in 1923 whose master distiller and creator of Japan’s first single malt was Masataka Taketsuru. He learned his craft at Glasgow University and by visiting countless distilleries in Scotland. He married Rita Cowan, a doctor’s daughter from Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow, and today the couple have legendary status in Japan where they are known as the mother and father of the Japanese whisky industry.

Duncan may not have statues erected to him for his support of the whisky industry but nevertheless dedicated whisky lovers regard The Highlander, built as a private house in 1880s before becoming a bar in the l960s, as a shrine to the single malt.

Before buying The Highlander, Duncan, who previously worked in Africa, Iraq and Zimbabwe was appointed manager of the nearby Craigellachie Hotel in l997. At that time it had a collection of over 500 single malts in its famous Quaich Bar.

He bought the Highlander in 2005. He explains, “We couldn’t compete with some of the other bars in terms of numbers so we went for more interesting, unusual and older bottlings, such as those from the 1970s and 1980s. We have quite a lot of independent bottling, too, and ones which you just can’t get anywhere else.

Duncan, a former chairman of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, added: “I like to think that my staff and I have helped raise the profile of malt whisky - and made The Highlander one of the most popular venues during the Festival - because we are all passionate.

“It’s not just about having shelves full of rare and interesting malts. If you don't have both the necessary knowledge and passion, all those bottles become expensive decoration.”

This year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival runs from May 2-6. For full details visit: www.spiritofspeyside.com

Tantalise your Tastebuds at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2013

Tantalise your Tastebuds at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2013Scotland's rich whisky heritage might take centre stage at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, but visitors can also get a taste for some other national delicacies during the five-day festival from May 2 - 6, 2013.

The region – known throughout the world as being the spiritual home of Scotland’s national drink – has some first-class restaurants and food producers and many will be playing a major role in the festivities.

Festival manager Mary Hemsworth says, “Whisky is at the heart of the festival, but there will be plenty more to whet the appetite of both foodies and whisky connoisseurs with a huge number of gastronomic delights.

“There are lots of food-related activities taking place over the course of the festival in lots of different locations. Visitors can go on a gastronomic ramble across the region and, of course, learn how to pair food with some of our best-known and best-loved Speyside malts.”

A firm favourite of last year’s festival will once again be making a return – the legendary 1 Bacon Roll and 4 Nips event. Those attending the event at Café St James in Dufftown will see this legendary breakfast staple in a totally new light. From 10am to midday each day of the festival, visitors can sample a bacon roll with four different nips of single malt whisky. Diners are then asked to cast their vote over which whisky reigns supreme as the perfect bacon butty accompaniment.

Beer and a curry may be popular in some parts of the UK, but in Speyside there’s an entirely different take on this traditional combination. Revellers can enjoy food, fun and the famous Whisky Quiz and Curry Night on May 2 at Rosehall Guest House, Grantown on Spey. With a welcome nip kicking off the evening’s events, visitors can test their knowledge with general knowledge quiz and chow down on a fiery curry – the perfect accompaniment to a full-bodied ‘wee dram’.  

Both those with a sweet-tooth and whisky-lovers will relish the thought of the Sweet Drams - Whisky & Chocolate Pairing which takes place on May 2 and 3 at Gordon and MacPhail, Elgin. Visitors can tuck in to tasty handmade luxury chocolates, from the Caledonian Confectionary Company as guides talk through which whiskies make for the perfect tastebud tantalising pairing.

Gordon & MacPhail’s Elgin shop will also be the venue for The Speyside Tapas Whisky Lunch, which combines the best local produce from the store’s delicatessen with a selection of single malt whiskies. Visitors can sample nibbles, washed down with a selection of Scotch whiskies for the ultimate taste sensation on May 4.

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is the perfect opportunity to experience the distinct flavours of the Speyside region and offers the chance to combine Scotland’s finest whisky offerings with tastebud tingling foods. Find out more and book tickets for events at www.spiritofspeyside.com

Other news regarding Spirit of Speyside 2013

Talented musicians to feature at Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival - 3rd April, 2013

Drinking in class? Only at the 2013 Spirit of Speyside Whisky School - 26th March, 2013

Spirit of Speyside Festival - Master Distiller Received Top Award - 9th October, 2012

Mention the name Alan Winchester in whisky circles worldwide and people nod in recognition of someone who has dedicated his working life to whisky and in particular Speyside Malts.

Alan’s contribution to Speyside and whisky has long been recognised by the industry and the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is delighted to announce that Alan is this year’s recipient of the Ambassador of the Year Award, given to the person, community or company who has contributed most to the Festival.

James Campbell, Chairman of the Festival, presented Alan with the Festival Quaich.  He said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been given this Award.  It is great to be involved with the Festival and contribute to its success and growth.”

Up to his appointment as Master Distiller of The Glenlivet, Alan has worked at and been responsible for 20 distilleries, almost all on Speyside.

Alan's passion for Scotch whisky and walking in part inspired the creation of The Glenlivet Smugglers Trails in 2007. Created in conjunction with the Crown Estate who own many of the lands surrounding The Glenlivet Distillery, the trails allow members of the public to follow in the footsteps of the whisky smugglers of old as they transported their renowned for the illicit whisky out of the Glenlivet valley. Every May at the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, Alan can be found personally leading walks along the trails, giving his personal insight and historical perspective to hoards of eager walkers and whisky lovers from throughout the world visiting the glen.

Aside from day to day distilling, Alan maintains a personal interest in the history of the industry, often trading thoughts and discoveries with industry colleagues and journalists around the world some of whom seek Alan's approval on points of fact and myth.

Alan Winchester remains a highly regarded distiller amongst his peers. In 1997 Alan was made a Keeper of the Quaich. In 2008 he was made President of the Malt Distillers Association, a three-year tenure, and is the current Chairman of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in Scotland.

Festival Chairman James Campbell commented,” The decision to recognise Alan’s contribution to the on-going success of the festival was unanimous.  He is an excellent Ambassador for Whisky, and in particular Speyside, worldwide and his enthusiasm is infectious.  We are delighted to add Alan’s name to the list of previous exceptional holders of the Quaich”.

James continued, “2012 was a fantastic festival with ticket sales up 40% and a number of events sold out very quickly.  Overseas visitor numbers were up on 2011 and there was a significant increase in the number of woman visiting the festival. The festival could not take place without the support of our members and event providers who go to such great lengths to ensure that visitors to Speyside have a memorable experience.  The Festival makes a valuable financial contribution to the local economy, generating an economic impact this year of £1.3 million over five days.  It also actively promotes this unique part of Scotland to a global audience all year round.’

The dates of the 2013 festival are 2 – 6 May 2013

Spirit Of Speyside Whisky Awards – Winners Announced - 14th May, 2012

The Glenlivet walked away with two of the top honours at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Awards 2012.  The Glenlivet 12 Years Old picked up the prize in the ’12 Years Old and Under’ category and The Glenlivet 15 Years Old (French Oak) came first in the ’13 to 20 Year Old’ class.  The ‘Over 20 Year Old’ category was won by Knockando 25 Years Old (2011 Special Reserve).

The finals of the Awards took place at The Macallan Distillery on the opening night of the Festival (Thursday, 3rd May) and were presented by Festival Chairman Jim Royan.  The winners are chosen by the consumer at this final stage making these Awards unique in the world of malt whisky awards.

The criteria for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards are that all entrants should be single Speyside malts, proprietary bottlings only and must be ‘generally’ and ‘commercially’ available.  Fifty-six of Speyside’s finest malts battled it out at a blind tasting earlier in the year, with six progressing through to the final round of blind tasting in the three categories.

Commenting on his two wins, Alan Winchester, The Glenlivet Master Distiller said: ”There is no better accolade for your whisky than the vote of the consumer. That is why we value winning any award at the Speyside Festival so highly, voted for by festival goers from all over the world. For The Glenlivet to win two such awards this year is a bonus and a testament to the work by many of my colleagues over the last 12 and 15 years that it took to make those whiskies. I think George Smith would have been proud!”

Jim Royan added: “We have had one of the most successful Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festivals ever this year.  Thousands of whisky enthusiasts from around the world descended on Speyside to taste our whiskies, tour our distilleries and meet with other like-minded connoisseurs and experts of many different nationalities.

“It’s a unique Festival and the Whisky Awards allow us to showcase some of the finest malt whiskies in the world to a very discerning audience.”

Defiant Speyside Spirit Injecting ‘Water Of Life’ Into Malt Whisky Country - 2nd May, 2012

Speyside Whisky Festival 2012The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival kicks off in stunning style tomorrow (Thursday, 3rd May) smashing previous records with ticket sales already exceeding those of last year’s end-of-event total.

The five-day ‘dramfest’ is defying the national double-dip, as well as depressions in the global economy, by attracting the biggest potential audience to date.  Organisers recorded the busiest first 24 hours in the event’s thirteen year history when the festival programme went live online earlier this year; within hours dozens of the Festival’s most popular tours, tastings, masterclasses and workshops were sold out and whisky fans had spent a staggering £50,000+ to secure spots at a range of the festival’s exclusive and hugely sought after events. 

Bookings have continued apace since then and the Festival, which has grown in both size and reputation over the years to become one of the most important whisky festivals in the world, is bracing itself for the influx of thousands of international whisky aficionados eager to base themselves in the world’s premier whisky destination.

As interest in Scotland’s national drink and the value of Scotch whisky exports has continued to increase, defying global economic uncertainty, advance bookings have proved particularly attractive to visitors from Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the UK.  But the organisers report interest from as far afield as Japan, Australia, Russia, South Africa, Canada and the USA. 

A varied and quality programme of over 300 events has tempted loyal whisky fans to Speyside to enjoy exclusive events such as the opening dinner at The Macallan Distillery featuring entertainment from three times Brit Award wining Scottish songstress Eddi Reader.  The renowned Spirit of Speyside Whisky School, ‘ultimate’ distillery visits, whisky and food pairing workshops, as well as the Speyside ‘Mystery Bus’ and ‘Seven Stills’ tours have proved popular with regular visitors. 

However, festival organisers are keen to point out that whisky fans are still able to book or just turn up to a wide range of more than 200 events over the five-day festival.

This year the Festival is set to breathe ‘water of life’ into a wider catchment area, as events have been expanded into Badenoch and Strathspey.  Last year the Festival recorded 47,000 visits, which generated £613,000 within Speyside  and £722,000 across the country, excelling in its aim to boost the area in what was previously perceived as the ‘off season’.

As the launch date approaches, Festival organisers are in high spirits.  Jim Royan, Festival Chairman, said: “The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival puts Malt Whisky Country on an international stage.  We have much to be proud of - a higher concentration of distilleries than any other region on earth and 7 of the 10 top selling single malt whiskies in the world.

“Our visitors come from all over the world to share our passion for Speyside’s landscape, history, culture, music, people and, of course, its whisky.  We know they enjoy the experience and our hospitality because they are inspired to return to Speyside year after year.”

Mary Hemsworth, Festival Manager, has been delighted at the number of whisky fans heading for the Festival.  She said: “This is my first year organising the Festival, and the anticipation is huge.  We have literally thousands of whisky fans descending on Speyside this weekend, and we want their experience of Speyside and the Festival to be authentic, inspiring and spirited. 

“Everyone involved in staging an event has been working very hard to show, once again, that Speyside can rise to the occasion, and put on a world class festival to showcase our world class product and environment.” 

Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer for EventScotland said: “The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is one of the highlights on Scotland’s events calendar, and we have seen in recent years that its popularity is continuing to grow.  

“Whisky is one of the country’s most iconic products, and the Festival’s 2012 programme will once again attract visitors from all over the world. Scotland is the perfect stage for events, and Speyside provides the ideal location for the Festival with its beautiful landscapes and world-renowned distilleries.”

Spirit Of Speyside Whisky Festival: Discover The Passion Behind The World’s Finest Whiskies - 29th March, 2012

For people with a passion for authentic Scottish pourings, there can be no more important event this spring than the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (3rd-7th May). 

The five-day festival is one of the most important on the whisky calendar and a ‘must’ for all devotees of the dram.  Speyside boasts over half of Scotland’s distilleries which produce 7 of the top 10 best selling single malt whiskies in the world, and the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival offers an unrivalled opportunity to uncover the unique culture and heritage of Scotland’s famed whisky country.

Visitors with all levels of experience of enjoying whisky can join interesting, instructional and inspirational events – from distillery tours offering an insight into some of Speyside’s most famous names including Cardhu, Glen Grant, The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, The Macallan and Benromach, as well as a number usually closed to the public such as Glen Elgin, Glenlossie and Mannochmore, Glen Spey, Speyburn and The Glenrothes, to masterclasses and demonstrations exploring the arts behind the creation of the traditional Scottish tipple.

Festival-goers will be initiated into the Speyside whisky secrets and immersed in the culture of whisky country – with ample opportunity to explore the stunning surroundings as well and the chance to discover the passion behind the world’s finest whiskies from some of the industry’s finest experts, from blenders to coopers and mashmen to managers.

Serious sippers can choose from a number of tours and tastings, hosted by those in the know at the area’s 50+ distilleries.  Guests keen to hone their nosing and tasting tactics can choose to attend events designed to develop their understanding of the dram including the chance to sample award-winning offerings at Benromach or Gordon and MacPhail and introductions to the process behind famous name pourings such as Glenlivet and Glenfiddich and Chivas (complete with a chance to sample a selection of the products).

And visitors can take an inside look at an independent distillery at Glenfarclas, which will also be offering an opportunity to enjoy the “Chairman’s Reserve”  - sampling single cask offerings from four key years as well as the spirit picked to celebrate 175 successful years at the stills.

For whisky-loving foodies there are invites to enjoy a nip and a nibble, and to explore the relationship between the whisky makers and farmers who enjoy a special symbiosis on Speyside. Guests can enjoy perfectly married meals where courses are paired with exquisite expressions, visit whisky and food workshops and learn to match dishes and drams or take the ‘Plough to Plate’ tour to discover more about Speyside’s superlative produce.

Visitors who are hungry to learn more about the history and heritage of the Speyside spirit can follow in the footsteps of the Speyside smugglers, exploring the backcountry braes that housed the first illicit stills or spend an evening with Scottish “Whisky Bard” Robin Laing. Alternatively they can join respected industry author David Wishart, who will this year launch the 10th anniversary edition of his trusted tome Whisky Classified, as he explores the Wonderful World of Whisky.

And if all that education leaves fans and followers hankering for a bit of hands on experience, they are in luck, with a choice between events such as the ‘Blend it Like’ workshop at the Cardhu distillery (home of Johnnie Walker) and the chance to help choose bottlings at the Glenfarclas or Gordon and MacPhail distilleries.

Since taking part in tutorials, tours and tastings will likely see visitors exposed to more than just the “angel’s share” of this authentic Scottish spirit, a range of events in the open air are on offer to help festival goers keep clear heads – from stream train tours through the heart of stunning Speyside, to wildlife walks up the region’s famed “Whisky Mountain”, Ben Rinnes. Fans of the outdoors can also explore the area with guided Landrover trips, or experience the outdoors in an amphibious Argocat.

Festival Chairman Jim Royan said: “The Spirit of Speyside festival offers whisky lovers the chance to pursue their passion and deepen their understanding of the processes, place and people that make this authentic Scottish spirit.  As always, tickets for our exclusive events are selling fast and we are looking forward to 2012 being our finest festival yet.”

Spirit Of Speyside Whisky Awards - Finalists Announced

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards - Finalists AnnouncedThe Glenlivet triumphed in the first round of judging of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards 2012, featuring in each of the three categories of the prestigious awards.

The judging panel for the first round of the awards, including industry representatives, whisky writers and specialist retailers, gathered recently at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for a blind tasting of 52 of Speyside’s finest malts hosted by Richard Lochhead MSP.

The judges selected two finalists in each of three categories resulting in a good representation of sherry influenced whiskies, a new release from Tomintoul Distillery and another fine representation from Chivas Brothers.

The shortlisted finalists are:

12 Years and Under:

  1. Tomintoul 12 Years Old (Oloroso Finish)
  2. The Glenlivet 12 Years Old

13 to 20 Years Old:

  1. Aberlour 18 Years Old
  2. The Glenlivet 15 Years Old (French Oak)

21 Years and Over:

  1. The Glenlivet 21 Years Old (Archive)
  2. Knockando 25 Years Old (2011 Special Release)

Jim Royan, Chairman of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival said:  “Many of the world’s most popular whiskies come from Speyside, so these shortlisted spirits are expressions of some of the highest quality malts to be found in the region.  We look forward to the next round of judging when visitors to the Festival will be the final decision-makers of the winning whiskies.”

Susan Young, editor of Dram magazine was attending as a judge for the first time.  She said she had been pleasantly surprised by the high quality of entries which she felt demonstrated the depth of whiskies available in Speyside. “When you’re tasting blind, you’re not influenced by packaging or presentation but judge purely on the taste.  The selection of whiskies entered for the awards was excellent which made it more difficult, particularly in the 12 years old and under category.  There were a few good whiskies I tasted on the day which I would definitely like to have in my drinks cabinet at home!”

The six finalists will now to on to a public vote at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival on Thursday, 3rd May, a unique judging process which has helped the Awards gain international recognition since their inception in 2005. 

Visitors to the Festival can book tickets for the exclusive final judging of the best of Speyside malts, and the winners will be announced shortly afterwards at the Opening Dinner to be held at The Macallan.

Tickets to take part in the judging of the Awards finals at this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival and to view all 300 events in the Festival programme are available at www.spiritofspeyside.com.  Whisky lovers can keep up-to-date with the Festival programme on www.facebook.com/WhiskyFestival or www.twitter.com/spirit_speyside.

Whisky Festival Organisers In High Spirits - Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival - 26th January, 2012

Organisers of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival are in high spirits after witnessing the busiest 24 hour period after launching the programme of events since the Festival began thirteen years ago.

Whisky enthusiasts worldwide wasted no time accessing the Festival’s website when it went live at 19.00 on Saturday, 21st January and within 12 hours, 33 of the 300 events were sold out, including the exclusive Opening Dinner which is being held at The Macallan Distillery this year.

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, running from 3rd-7th May, has grown in stature year on year to become one of the most important whisky festivals in the world and one of the key festivals on the Scottish events calendar. 

Mary Hemsworth, Festival Manager said that everyone was thrilled with the response to this year’s line up of events, but that there were still plenty of outstanding and quality events for visitors to book. 

She commented: “Ticket sales for the first day were in excess of £50,000 with three months still to go until the Festival itself.  It’s also encouraging to see that thousands of our whisky fans are keeping up-to-date with the Festival via Facebook and Twitter – they’ll be the first to know of any new events that are added to the programme, and any key announcements we may make over the coming months.”

The most popular events included exclusive tours of distilleries not normally open to the public, ‘ultimate’ tours of some of the finest whisky distilleries in the world, whisky and food pairing workshops, the intriguing Mystery Bus Tour of Speyside, a tour around the five distilleries of Elgin and the popular Seven Stills Bus Tour.

Visitors to the Festival will be coming from as far afield as Japan, Australia, Russia, South Africa, Canada and the USA with the majority making the journey from closer shores such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany and the UK. 

Mary continued: “Speyside and the wider area benefit greatly from the Whisky Festival each year, both in terms of reputation and financially.  So it’s important that we offer a strong line up of events to encourage visitors to return year after year to share their passion for the world’s finest whiskies, and to appeal to new visitors to come and experience Malt Whisky country and the Whisky Festival for themselves.

“From the response we’ve seen in these first few days we will be welcoming the usual big crowds, but hopefully this may be the best attended and finest Festival yet.”

Spirt of Speyside Whisky Festival, 2012 - Whisky Festival showing its spirited colours to defy downturn - 20th January, 2012

While industries across the world remain concerned about the effects of austerity, Scotland’s national drink is showing its spirit and defying the downturn to gather a greater share of the global market – news that comes as no surprise to those behind the upcoming Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival as they prepare to launch the programme of events for the 2012 Festival tomorrow (Saturday, 21st January).

Figures for the first half of 2011 from the Scotch Whisky Association show that exports of the traditional tipple continued to grow in both established markets and in emerging markets such as Asia and South America in spite of an unsettled economic climate, which is leading Festival organisers to predict a bumper year for the event and promise visitors an even bigger and better Festival than ever. 

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (3rd-7th May), one of the most anticipated in the whisky world and a highlight of Scotland’s events calendar, also provides a major boost to the Scottish economy with last year’s event attracting 47,000 visits from whisky lovers who injected almost £3/4 million into the national economy during their visits.

The five-day Festival attracts whisky drinkers from all over the world as connoisseurs and newcomers alike gather to share their passion for some of the world’s favourite whiskies and enjoy a packed programme activities and attractions in the spectacular setting of Speyside’s whisky country.  And this year’s events programme offers visitors the biggest choice yet, with over 270 events already lined up.

Tourism bosses welcomed the news of the Festival programme launch and acknowledged the important contribution the event makes to the industry, with the so-called “distillery effect” having a positive impact on visitor spending during their time in Speyside.

Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer for EventScotland said: “Scotland is the perfect stage for events, and whisky is one of Scotland’s great products, which is why the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival attracts large numbers of connoisseurs from around the country and overseas. The 2012 festival programme includes a wide range of events, which will cater for both whisky aficionados and newcomers to Scotland’s national drink.”

Devotees of the dram will be poised by their browsers at 7pm on Saturday, 21st January to bag places on an exciting selection of tours, tastings and tutorials at the area’s 50+ distinguished distilleries and a host of other venues as the 2012 Festival programme goes live and the internet booking system finally opens.

Exclusive events such as the Speyside Whisky School have already sold out in advance and other established and newly added events are expected to tempt enthusiasts to travel to Speyside from across the whisky-drinking world. At least half of the Festival’s visitors are expected to travel from overseas as the festival regularly proves popular with tourists from the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Germany and France and further afield.

Festival goers from across the globe come for the authentic whisky experience in Malt Whisky Country where they are treated to a selection of events that showcase the true spirit of Speyside, with workshops, tutorials, tours, instruction, nosings and tastings on offer from some of the industry’s top experts – from blenders to coopers and mashmen to managers.  And there are opportunities to delight in the dram in superlative surroundings – at the top of a mountain or on a train, straight from the cask or in the shadow of a historic castle.

Exclusive tours can be booked at distilleries usually closed to the public – including Glen Elgin, Glenlossie and Mannochmore, Glen Spey, Speyburn and Glenrothes - and visitors can enjoy a dram alongside some of the region’s award-winning produce at whisky and food pairing workshops and on the popular Whisky and Food Tours.  This year sees the introduction of a Ceilidh Trail, and the Festival atmosphere will be buzzing with the sound of local bands playing in many of the area’s hotels, bars and traditional pubs.

The Festival’s Company Secretary, James MacPherson explained that the event would offer more than ever before for both returning visitors and new initiates with a new Information Hub supplying up-to-date information on Festival events, more music and entertainment, and a host of new creative events to tempt people to return year after year. 

He said: “The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is a wonderful celebration of our region’s culture, heritage and unique identity.  We are delighted to be able to inspire visitors with an authentic insight into such a thrilling whisky festival experience, and we’re excited to be able to announce a number of new additions to the 2012 Festival programme in the coming weeks.”

VisitScotland Regional Director Scott Armstrong added: “Whisky is undoubtedly one of our most valuable icons when marketing Scotland abroad and a huge draw for visitors.  Not only is whisky so well known and instantly synonymous with Scotland it is an extremely high quality product that positions the country very well in the minds of potential visitors from the UK and across the world.

“Figures show that £1 in every £5 spent by a visitor in Scotland is on food and drink-related activity, equating to more than £500 million for UK visitors alone, and events such as the ever popular Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival make an invaluable contribution to this. Supported by EventScotland, the Sprit of Speyside festival provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase Scotland and celebrate one of its most iconic products to a wide range of local people and holiday makers from Scotland itself, the UK and abroad.”

The programme of events for the 2012 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival and online booking system will go live at 7pm on Saturday, 21st January at www.spiritofspeyside.com, with up-to-date content on www.facebook.com/WhiskyFestival or www.twitter.com/spirit_speyside

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Is a Mecca For Whisky Lovers Worlwide - 11th October, 2011

With a higher concentration of whisky distilleries than any other part of the world, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival continues to provide a major economic boost to the region, attracting a significant loyal audience and a large number who attended the celebrated Festival for the first time, according to a survey published today (11th October).

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Market Research and Festival Evaluation 2011 report found that the five-day event, which ran from 28th April to 2nd May, attracted over 47,000 visits to its packed programme of whisky-themed events, generating £613,000 towards the Speyside economy and £722,000 towards Scotland as a whole.

Showcasing the very best of the area’s culture, history, landscape and people and with well over 200 events running throughout the five days, the festival has grown in importance over the past 12 years to become one of the leading whisky events in the world.

Almost half of this year’s Festival visitors were from overseas, with whisky aficionados travelling from as far afield as Israel, Columbia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia to sample the spirit of Speyside.  Scandinavian visitors continue to represent the keenest Speyside whisky fans who enjoyed a exceptional choice of whisky based events and activities, ceilidhs, food tours and family friendly events with other connoisseurs from countries such as Germany, US, Netherlands, Canada, Italy and Japan.

Festival Chairman, Jim Royan said:  “Year after year the Festival continues to attract visitors from around the globe, with many already having attended twice or even up to six times before.  And encouragingly a large percentage of new visitors this year were experiencing the Festival for the first time.  Hopefully they will find the Festival as compelling as our many loyal and regular visitors, and come back to join in the festivities with us time and time again. 

“We certainly know they enjoyed themselves, because almost 100% of our visitors said they were “very happy” or “happy” with their Festival experience, enjoying the atmosphere, hospitality, friendliness, expert knowledge and, this year in particular, the weather!”

Popular events on this year’s Festival programme included the Whisky Awards Finals and the Opening Dinner, the many whisky dinners running throughout the Festival as well as the highly regarded and exclusive three-day Whisky School where enthusiasts learned about the science, art and folklore of the whisky industry at the historic Knockando distillery.

The Whisky and Food Tours, which were new for this year, are to be repeated again next year, introducing visitors to the rich culinary and agricultural heritage of the area.

Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer for EventScotland commented: “It is wonderful to see the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival continuing to attract large numbers of Scottish and overseas visitors to the event.

“The economic impact generated for the local area shows the importance of events in Scotland and its continued success shows the appetite for Scottish produce, culture and heritage in an iconic setting.”

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2010 - April 29th - May 3rd 2010

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is all about whisky in Speyside. There you will find out all about Whisky, Food, Music and the Heritage & Culture of Speyside. The 2010 Festival will as usual have a wide range of events for everyone. Starting on 29th April and finishing on the 3rd of may this festival is one of the best whisky events around.

On the first evening of this event is the opening dinner where you will hear from whisky experts, writer and distilleries. This is a great opening night and with over 300 people attending this dinner the atmosphere around the hall is amazing. This year the dinner will be held at the Benromach Distillery and you will be welcome with a Spirit of Speyside Malt Cocktail.

The guest speaker will be Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. Once the dinner has got on the way there will be award of the Spirit of Speyside. If you are wanting to buy a ticket for this dinner please click the below link and remember the dress code for this dinner is you must be smart with a hint of Tartan. At the time of writing there was only 73 tickets left, so book now if you want a evening to remember.

To book tickets for this dinner click here.

If you want to see the full list of events at this Speyside festival please go to www.spiritofspeyside.com/events.php

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