The curtain is about to rise on one of the world’s biggest and best Scotch whisky festivals – and organisers predict that it may be another one for the record books. Thousands of tickets have already been sold for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, and it is anticipated that even more will be snapped up this week.
The event, which is now in its 18th year, kicks off on Wednesday (April 26) with a gala dinner at Glen Moray Distillery in Elgin, with five days of activities getting underway in earnest the following day. There are almost 500 different events taking place across Speyside – a region regarded as a spiritual home of Scotland’s whisky industry.
Visitors will be able to take part in exclusive behind the scenes tours at distilleries that are only opening their doors to the public during the Festival, learn about the art of nosing and tasting whisky, enjoy a dram with gourmet food, and meet the people directly involved in the whisky making process.
There are lots of outdoor activities, such as organised local heritage walks, off-road vehicle tours and canoe trips, as well as traditional Scottish ceilidhs and concerts. Major distillers will host the majority of events, but community groups are also staging activities, showing the high regard in which the industry is held locally.
New records were set when Festival tickets went on sale in February, with a staggering 85 events selling out within the first 24 hours. Sales during that period came from a greater number of overseas locations than in previous years, and organisers hope it is an indication that more international visitors will attend the celebrations than ever before.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival chairman James Campbell says, “The stage is set – all we are waiting for is the thousands of whisky enthusiasts from home and abroad to arrive so that we can get the party started.
“The Festival turns 18 this year – some would say that it’s finally legal – and we certainly hope that it will be a birthday party to remember. All the signs are that we can expect five very busy days welcoming regular Festival-goers and brand new attendees.”
Although many of the visitors will come from overseas – particularly the USA and Europe – the events attract hundreds of locals and home-grown whisky lovers. There is still some late availability for some events, and others require no entry ticket at all.
Festival manager Pery Zakeri says the organising team has been taking calls every day from eager revellers interested in attending events, helping those who are making a last-minute decision to attend plan their itineraries.
She adds, “For the most part we have been able to help customers get tickets for events, but many of the exclusive distillery tours and opportunities to sample rare and vintage malts have been sold out for weeks.
“However, that is also part of the attraction of the Festival. It is only during the five days of the Festival that almost all the distilleries on Speyside will open their doors to welcome members of the public – for true whisky enthusiasts that represents a unique opportunity and it is why so many hundreds of people are willing to travel such distances to attend.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s director of events, adds, “This year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival promises to be another truly memorable event thanks to exciting and innovative programme on offer.
“Speyside is the perfect stage for the Festival and EventScotland is delighted to once again be supporting the event. I hope everyone attending this year’s Festival has a great time discovering the history and heritage of our national drink while enjoying a wee dram.”
Based in the heart of Scotland’s malt whisky country, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival takes place over five fun-filled days from April 27 to May 1, 2017. It comprises almost 500 events, taking place from Kingussie in the south to Forres in the west and Buckie in the east.
There are still some event tickets available, and the website – www.spiritofspeyside.com – is updated on an ongoing basis to show latest availability. The Festival is active on social media – facebook.com/WhiskyFestival and @spirit_speyside on Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #dram17.