Scotland’s blend of whisky festivals are proving as popular as ever with the recent Spirit of Speyside event seeing thousands flock to the region to celebrate the national drink.
The Spirit of Speyside Festival, running from Wednesday 26 April to Monday 1 May, saw almost 2,500 people descend on one of Scotland’s much-loved whisky regions.
More than 7,000 tickets were sold for an array of events including distillery tours, tastings under the stars, whisky train rides, cask building and ceilidhs. Guests travelled from as far afield as Hong Kong and Australia to get a taste of the famed region.
Billed as one of the largest events of its kind anywhere in the world, organisers said the festival relies on the blend of talent in the Speyside community to create a programme of unique experiences for visitors.
To get this year’s festival started, the whisky community came together for the “Touch of Tartan” Opening Dinner at Dallas Dhu Distillery.
The iconic drams of the region were recognised on the evening with the announcement of the 2023 Whisky Awards.
Speyside’s finest malts were decided by vote from judges worldwide.
While Glenlivet took home the overall win for its 25-year-old Single Cask with notes of sweet fig and blood orange, Glen Moray’s Chardonnay Cask was awarded gold in the Non-Aged Statement category and Tamdhu received gold awards for its 12 and 18-year-old single malts.
The competition for next year’s winners has already begun. Festival goers who attended Spirit of Speyside Whisky Award tastings have cast their first votes to determine next year’s winners from a shortlist judged by industry experts in March.
Organisers said that in a year of many firsts, the festival’s best new event for 2023 was awarded to Speyburn Distillery’s Behind the Scenes Tour and Tasting.
This marked the first time in 125 years that Speyburn has opened its doors to the public.
The opening event of the festival also acknowledged the achievements of those who have contributed to the industry and the region and protected the legacy of Scotch whisky.
John Grant, chairman of J & G Grant, saw his commitment to the industry - spanning over 50 years - being honoured with a Spirit of Speyside Lifetime Achievement Award.
Keith Brian, who has been a supporter of the festival at Craigellachie Distillery, was named as the festival’s ‘Unsung Hero’.
Each year ambassadors are named who are said to encapsulate the essence of the region. Richard E Forsyth was recognised as Spirit of Speyside International Ambassador for his work in promoting the Scotch Whisky industry, as well as the festival.
Sandy McIntyre of Tamdhu Distillery was named Spirit of Speyside Ambassador, acknowledging his dedication to great single malt
George McNeil, Spirit of Speyside Festival chairman said: “This year’s festival has surpassed all expectations. We’re thrilled to be working with partners like EventScotland, The Macallan, and Cardhu among others on a calendar of truly special events that brought more visitors than ever to Speyside this year.”
With Spirit of Speyside having drawn to a close, whisky lovers from Scotland and further afield have a number of whisky festivals and events to look forward to.
To name just a few, the Campbeltown Malts Festival is being held from 23 to 26 May and the Islay Festival - Fèis Ìle - is running at the end of this month. World Whisky Day is on 20 May sees celebrations taking place across the globe.
12 year old and under
13 – 20 year old
21 year old & over
12 year old & under
Glenlivet 10 year old v Benriach The Smoky 12 year old
13 year old – 17 year old
Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean v Speyburn 15 year old
18 year old & over
Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 YO v Balvenie 21 YO
Aberlour A'Bunadh v The Cragganmore Distillers Edition