- Wednesday 2nd Mar 2016
- Posted in activities, culture, distillery, events, festivals, food and drink, whisky
Ask almost anybody what Scotland is famous for and they will reply either “rain” or “whisky”. Very few people come to Scotland for the rain, but more and more are coming for our national drink. Whisky tourism is more popular than ever with events springing up all over the country. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is arguably the largest of such events, so we spoke to Pery Zakeri, the festival manager to find out why it is such a success.
Hi Pery, can you give us some background about the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival?
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is an annual event, taking place in the heart of Malt Whisky Country. It invites visitors from across the globe to not only sample some of the world’s finest single malt whiskies but to discover the passion and traditions behind them with a programme featuring hundreds of whisky inspired events over five days. During the Festival, many distilleries open their doors to the public – some for the very first time in history!
How long has the festival been going for?
The Festival launched in 1999 and since then, has grown into one of the best whisky festivals in the world, attracting visitors from 34 countries in 2015. It is a fantastic time to be in Speyside as the atmosphere is really vibrant with thousands of visitors arriving to join in and meet with the locals to celebrate our national drink. It truly captures the Spirit of Speyside in every sense of the word!
Of course, it doesn’t just happen in one venue, tell us a bit about that.
Festival events take place across the region – from Kingussie in the South, following the course of the River Spey and beyond. Our venues are distilleries old and new, local village halls, historic castles to whisky bars – even the great outdoors! The programme is wonderfully varied each year and the experiences are unique and quite intimate. There is no other whisky festival quite like it.
It’s not simply about drinking whisky, what else can visitors expect?
There is much more to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – and Speyside – than the spirit itself. It’s possible to come to the Festival and not drink a drop as there is so much on offer – talks to vintage train journeys, canoe trips to climbing heather clad hills in an eight wheeled argocat listening to stories of whisky smuggling in days gone by – there is something for everyone. For those who like crafts, a felting taster session or day carving whisky tumblers from greenwood may appeal. There is also the Spirit of Speyside Sessions for music lovers – a programme of traditional music including shows by some of Scotland’s most talented musicians.
During the Festival, visitors can also taste the fantastic local produce of Speyside and this year, there is a range of foodie events on offer from whisky cookery to a seven course tasting menu hosted by whisky legend Charles MacLean.
What have been the highlights of past festivals?
There is too many to mention! The Opening Ceilidh in 2015 gave visitors the chance to dine with some of Speyside’s whisky stars before taking to the floor for a evening of traditional dancing which was a lot of fun. The list of distilleries offering exclusive events is also lengthy, with Glenallachie, Tormore, Longmore, Glen Keith and Knockando all opening their doors previously which is a real highlight for our visitors.
Finally, what is special about Speyside as a whisky region?
Speyside is home to over half of the distilleries in Scotland. The River Spey links the region and many of the distilleries use water from the springs which feed the river. Speyside is known for its fruity and delicate characteristics but the range of flavours to be found in Speyside whiskies is remarkable. There is so much in whisky to discover here.