Love is in the air

Love is in the air

It might not be about romance, but if you adore whisky, a one-to-one with some of Speyside’s most highly esteemed whisky experts could be just the ticket.

Speed Dating: Whisky Blethers is billed as the chance to spend an evening with key industry players and ask them all about the craft that they love and cherish. This is a chance to get up close and personal with the coppersmiths, coopers, stillmen, mashmen, warehousemen and managers that have created the whiskies of Rothes, in a festival first taking place at the distillery town’s Seafield Arms Hotel.

Whisky lovers will have the chance to spend up to 15 minutes with each expert, including Dennis Malcolm, master distiller at Glen Grant and a past winner of the Spirit of Speyside Award winner recognising 50 years’  service to the industry; Alasdair Anderson, current manager at Glenrothes Distillery in Rothes; Alexander Tweedie, who retired as technical support manager for Edrington but still hosts VIP tours at Glenrothes; Allan McDonald, now retired stillman and mashman at Glenrothes and Glen Grant; and Brian Webster, head cooper and Edrington’s Glenrothes cooperage.

While engaged in chat with the experts, a modern Rothes whisky flight featuring a dram of Glenrothes, Glen Grant, Speyburn and Glen Spey, will be served along with a buffet. What’s not to love?

Music and blindfolds will be among the tools used to take festival goers on a journey back in time to discover Speyside’s Lost Whisky Legends. The voyage will uncover the incredible story of the lost distilleries, like Speyside's Towiemore which was built in 1897 in the parish of Botriphnie, just six miles from Dufftown.

This heritage session will lift the lid on the founder, a forgotten Speyside whisky baron called Peter Dawson, exploring his distilling roots, in a multi-sensory tasting experience with music, blindfolds and tastes from a hand-picked ‘chocolate box’ of Scotch to rediscover the pioneering 19th century era of whisky. Lost Whisky Legends Reborn is being hosted at The Drouthy Cobbler in Elgin on May 6.

In a centuries-old industry, it’s rare to get the chance to meet a distillery founder – but festival goers can do just that at Ballindalloch this year.

Share a drink with members of the Macpherson-Grant family and learn about their venture into traditional whisky making. In 2012, the family began the process of converting an old farm steading on their Estate into a distillery. Spirit ran for the first time in September 2014 and they will share their story during the Founders’ Tour on May 3 at Speyside’s newest distillery.

With distillery host Brian Robinson, guests will see what it means to make whisky without the use of automation in a detailed but relaxed look into the distillery, learning about its whisky making process and finding out why it was awarded Icons of Whisky Craft Producer of the Year 2016 and 2018.

What does a whisky tasting in Dufftown have in common with Star Wars? Think Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and whether an apprentice can surpass the teacher. In this this case, The Whisky Shop Dufftown’s ‘Lady of Drams’ Vicky Keough takes on shop owner Mike Lord, newly appointed Keeper of the Quaich, in a head-to-head whisky tasting. This will be done in front of an audience at St James’ Hall in Dufftown, who are sure to pick up a few good tips and pointers about the drams they will be sampling, before they decide which one is master or mistress of whisky tasting.

There’s nothing unusual about ceilidhs taking place during the festival weekend but the venue for one – on board a train – is a little out of the ordinary. Speyside has its own whisky line, on which a heritage railway links Dufftown and Keith, and the operators are planning a hooley when passengers will enjoy the sounds of lively local ceilidh band Footerin Aboot, along with a dram and shortbread or whisky cake while passing by some great Speyside scenery. The first Ceilidh On A Train return trip departing from Dufftown has completely sold out but there are still some tickets for the final journey on the afternoon of Saturday, May 5.

James Campbell, chairman of Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, says:

This really is the year to make a date with our festival as we’ve got so many unique events in our programme. Hats off to the whisky lovers who came up with a novel take on speed dating, the chance to meet whisky experts and discuss a shared love, over a dram or two of course.

While some events have already sold out, there is still time to get tickets for others, and the variety and the character of the offering is as diverse as the many different whiskies that are produced in the region’s 50 plus distilleries.

Tickets are still available for events in this year’s festival, which runs from May 3 to 7. There’s everything from behind-the-scenes tours at internationally renowned distilleries not usually open to the public, whisky tasting masterclasses, whisky and food pairings complemented by outdoor activities and heritage events, meaning the festival offers something for die-hard whisky fans to those who have never tried it before.

For further information and tickets visit www.spiritofspeyside.com. The Festival is also active on social media: facebook.com/WhiskyFestival and @spirit_speyside on Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #dram18

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