The casinos of Las Vegas may have their high rollers, but the streets of the world’s unofficial malt whisky capital will soon have their very own barrel rollers. Visitors to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival will have the chance to compete in the ancient ‘sport’ of barrel rolling - a tribute to the warehousemen who perform the task on a daily basis.
The event takes place in Dufftown – recognised as the hub of Scotland’s whisky industry because it is surrounded by seven distilleries, including the world famous Glenfiddich – and takes place over a 50m track.
It is just one of many quirky events taking place at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival from April 28 to May 2 in the heart of Scotland’s best known – and best loved – whisky producing region.
Thousands of visitors from all over the world will descend on Speyside to raise a glass to the national drink at almost 500 separate events. The programme includes distillery tours, exclusive tastings, food events, music, comedy and outdoor activities for whisky connoisseurs and novices.
Barrel racing takes place on a closed road in the town centre of Dufftown on Sunday, May 1 and has been organised by the Dufftown and District Community Association. Nicola Alexander, a trustee of the group, says the event will offer something very different.
She adds, “The idea came about because we wanted to do something different from all the tours and nosings and tastings, but still keeping with the whisky theme. We hope the community will come out for this event, along with the visitors, and enjoy the Festival spirit.
“Competitors will be asked to race a 50m track and back up again, when the other member of the team will take over and do the same. The winner will be the fastest team.
“Before the race, two experienced warehouse men from a local cooperage will show everyone how's it’s done. We hope to make this a yearly event and even get all the local distilleries to have a competition between each other.”
The event is open to teams of two – individuals can be paired up – and there’s even prizes on offer for the fastest finishers. The action takes place under the shadow of Dufftown’s iconic clock tower from 2.15 – 3.15pm. It forms part of the wider Dufftown Whisky Street Festival, with lots of Scottish entertainment throughout the afternoon.
For those who still have the energy, there’s the chance to take in all seven of the town’s distilleries in the 7 Stills Race. The course will take in all the famous and lesser known names and offers a varied and challenging route. The race takes place from 2pm to 6pm.
Other quirky events on the programme include the opportunity to canoe down the mighty River Spey and sample some drams inside a tepee at the end of the trip; trying out craft skills by carving a wooden whisky tumbler and needle felting a Highland cow; and taking part in a ‘dramble’ through the Quarrelwood in Elgin where experts from renowned whisky merchants Gordon and MacPhail will discuss the importance of wood in whisky production.
There’s also a women-only event, Whisky Women & WAGS. Dufftown whisky expert Michelle Myron will be leading a walk around the local distilleries, showing how chocolate is the perfect match for whisky. And there’s even the chance to enjoy a whisky pancake breakfast at Grantown YMCA – with a special limited edition Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival topping.
Whisky festival manager Pery Zakeri says, “We pride ourselves on offering something for everyone, regardless of their level of interest in whisky. It’s possible to come and enjoy the Festival and the atmosphere without touching a drop – although we thoroughly recommend that all our visitors give the region’s fantastic whisky a try.
“There are almost 500 events on the programme this year and we defy anyone not to be able to find something that they will enjoy.”
Tickets for all events in the 2016 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme are available to buy now at www.spiritofspeyside.com The Festival is also active on social media – facebook.com/WhiskyFestival and @spirit_speyside on Twitter and on Instagram.