The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival AGM will take place on Thursday 27th October 2016 at 2.30pm at the Fleming Hall in Aberlour and Festival directors will be looking back over a successful year which saw the expansion of the Festival portfolio as well as forward to developing the offering in 2017. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is estimated to bring £1.5 million to the local economy; firmly positioning the area as the epicentre of the malt whisky world. 62% of the 2016 attendees came from overseas a significant rise from the 49% of overseas visitors in 2015. It attracted visitors from 37 countries, an increase on the 34 countries represented in 2015, demonstrating an increase in its global reach and making it a truly international draw. The Festival proved most popular with visitors from Germany, the USA, Sweden, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Italy and Canada [in descending order].
The overall visits to Festival events increased by 7.4% to a total of 28,337 and these visitors stayed longer with average stays of 4.5 nights, a notable increase from the three-day average stay in 2015.
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2016 (28 April to 2 May) had over 500 individual events on its programme. Online ticket sales increased by more than 23.5%. Organisers broke the record for the speed of sales for online tickets for the Festival and just four weeks after event tickets went on sale, over 80 distillery tours – many of them at venues not usually open to the public – were completely sold out, and more than 50 exclusive whisky tasting events were full. In a first for the 2016 event, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards, invited lovers of the amber nectar overseas to play a part in helping choose the region’s finest whiskies. Customers of Scotia Spirit in Cologne cast their votes for their top choices from the six finalists previously shortlisted by a panel of industry leaders, acclaimed writers and specialist retailers. Linda Mellis, a director of the Festival flew out to Cologne for the judging.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Manager, Pery Zakeri says, “The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is a flagship event on the Scottish stage, attracting increasing numbers of overseas visitors each year. Crucially, the 2016 event encouraged visitors to stay for an average of 4.5 days compared to the average of 3 days in 2015 and this benefits all businesses in the tourism economy locally. By expanding the horizons of the Festival to other European cities and events we’re extending the reach and the appeal. All of the hard work of our members has certainly paid off in 2016.”
For the first time the main Festival was joined by a new mini Festival which gathered together Speyside’s finest food and drink producers in one central venue at Elgin Town Hall. Spirit of Speyside: Distilled took place over three days in September and more than 30 local producers showcased Speyside at its best over several sessions. As well as visiting different stand holders to sample food and drink, visitors met the people behind the products, including master distillers and brand ambassadors. There were a range of specialist masterclasses covering topics from cocktails to food pairings and there were new, rare and cask strength drams, and insights into the art of whisky, gin and beer making led by experts in their craft.
And the developments won’t stop at Spirit of Speyside: Distilled, as plans are already well under way for 2017. Following the success of the German judging for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards, directors plan to take judging sessions to five major cities to decide the best Speyside malts.
The Festival directors have also confirmed that Spirit of Speyside: Distilled will return in 2017 following excellent visitor and exhibitor feedback.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Chairman James Campbell says, “Research shows that 43% of visitors from Germany visit a whisky distillery whilst in Scotland which underlines the importance of the German visitor to Speyside and to the Festival. Visits to whisky distilleries remains most popular with overseas visitors with some 1.1 million visits recorded to distilleries in Scotland in a year. The Festival offers a mature product which appeals to those who have a well-developed interest in whisky and its production as well as having plenty of events for those who are not strict ‘aficionados’ and just love the friendly welcome and the chance to learn more. Distilled showed us that there is an obvious market from a slightly younger demographic who enjoy finding such a range of food and drink under one roof on one day. The Festival directors look forward to developing this event further in 2017.”
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is a not for profit organisation which works in partnership with whisky producers and local businesses. Festival directors are all volunteers who come together to run the Festival to increase economic benefit for the whole Speyside area.