Six malt whiskies from Speyside distilleries will go head-to-head for the honour of being recognised as one of the region’s top tipples. The finalists in the 2015 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards have been shortlisted by a panel of judges - but the whisky-loving public will be responsible for crowning the overall winners. 

Festival visitors will be asked to vote for their favourite drams at a series of judging roadshows taking place during the annual five-day celebration of Scotland’s national drink from April 30 to May 4. 

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards remains the only whisky awards scheme in the world that places the power to determine the winners in the hands of the public.

The judging panel, which was made up of industry experts, whisky writers and specialist retailers, whittled down the eight finalists from an overall entry of 37 from distilleries across Speyside. There are three separate categories. 

In the 12 years and under category and non-age statement category, Cardhu Gold Reserve will take on Strathisla 12 years. In the section for malts aged 13 to 20 it will be between Aberlour 18 and Glenfiddich 18. GlenSpey 21 and Benromach 30 will battle it out in the 21 years and over category.

The awards are sponsored by coppersmiths Forsyths of Rothes – the company responsible for building many of the pot stills in which the shortlisted single malts were distilled. The judging session took place at the Knockomie Hotel in Forres.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival director Laura Sharp says that the judges blind tasted the entries, and only found out which drams made their shortlist after all the scores had been counted.

“We were very fortunate to have a highly skilled panel of judges who are all respected within the industry. I know that they were all very impressed with the overall quality of the entries, and the final scoring was very close. That makes a real statement about the quality of the whisky that we have here in Speyside,” she says.

“We feel very strongly, however, that the final say should rest in the hands of Festival visitors. Our judging panel may help to educate and form opinions about whiskies in their-day-to-day roles, but it could be said that consumers are the real experts as they ultimately have the power to make or break through their buying preferences.

“Whisky drinkers appreciate a fantastic whisky when they taste one - we have every confidence that visitors to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival will once again select winners worthy of being crowned the best in Speyside.”

A number of judging sessions will take place across Speyside, with visitors asked to sample each shortlisted malt in a blind taste test. Tasting the malts blind ensures that consumers are not swayed by loyalty to or awareness of brands.The final judging session and awards prize-giving will take place at the Festival closing ceilidh on Sunday, May 3. 

Tickets for all events in the 2015 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme, including the roving judging sessions, can be bought via the website – - from February 3. The Festival is also active on social media – and @spirit_speyside on Twitter. 

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