Whisky connoisseurs from around the globe have been scrambling for the chance to catch a glimpse inside the region’s hidden distillery gems during next month’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.
Just four weeks after event tickets went on sale, over 80 distillery tours – many of them at venues not usually open to the public – have been completely sold out, while more than 50 exclusive whisky tasting events are now full.
But whisky fans will still find plenty of opportunity to learn more about distilleries in the region – a true powerhouse of Scotland’s whisky industry – when the Festival welcomes visitors from April 28 to May 2.
There are still tickets on sale which will allow visitors a sneak peek inside some distilleries that are throwing open their doors just for the Festival, ranging from exclusive VIP events down to free tours where guests enjoy a dram at the end.
And for the real aficionados, there are still opportunities to sample some rare and exclusive Speyside malts at tasting events being hosted by both world-leading brands and distilleries at the smaller end of the production scale.
Festival manager Pery Zakeri says the speed at which tickets have sold for distillery tours and whisky tasting events has taken organisers by surprise. They expect there will be a further rush on tickets before the curtain rises on the event.
She adds, “We know that events at distilleries not normally open to the public will sell very quickly, but the volume of tickets sold has been quite staggering. I think people now know that if they want the chance to see inside these distilleries, the only time they are going to be able to do that is during the Festival.
“But the good news is that some tickets are available, and the quality of the events is exceptional. There are quite a few events where guests are going to be given a very rare opportunity to sample some vintage malts and take part in unique experiences for a very reasonable cost.
“Our advice would be for visitors to make sure they book their tickets as soon as possible, because we fully anticipate that the vast majority of tours and tastings will sell out in advance of the Festival starting.”
Tours at venues such as Dalmunach, Knockando, Tomintoul and Inchgower distilleries sold out the day tickets went on sale, but limited numbers of tickets for tours of Aultmore, Speyside, Auchroisk, Dufftown and Coleburn – all usually closed to the public – are still available.
Whisky aficionados who want to push the boat out will be able to take part in some very exclusive events. Benromach Distillery is offering people with discerning noses the chance to select the next single cask that will be bottled as a Benromach Distillery Exclusive.
Guests will be able to nose and taste a selection of cask samples before voting for their favourite, and then writing up the tasting notes. The £100 ticket price also includes a bottle of the malt once it has been bottled.
There’s also the chance to visit Drummuir Castle, the home of Diageo, which is only open to the company’s guests. The event costs £195 and will include a visit to Mortlach Distillery, a tutored in-depth nosing and tasting of the Mortlach range and a fine dining experience during which guests will enjoy wines from the cellars and an opportunity to pair whisky with food.
Visitors can learn about illicit distilling and whisky smuggling with Glenlivet Hill Trek, who will be transporting guests by eight-wheel-drive argocat into the hills above Glenlivet Distillery for an off-road tour. The ticket price of £130 includes a picnic lunch with a selection of drams in a stone-built bothy followed by an in-depth tour of The Glenlivet Distillery, which pioneer George Smith was the first to license as a distillery in the parish of Glenlivet in 1824.
In contrast, The Whisky Shop Dufftown will be staging taste challenges where visitors will be asked to vote on their favourite drams from the Speyside region and the rest of the world. The ticket price for these events is just £5, and includes samples of a range of top quality malts.
Whisky Shop Dufftown owner Mike Lord has also arranged some in-store extravaganzas with world renowned brands including Wemyss Malts and Gordon and MacPhail which are completely free of charge, as is the chance to browse and sample whisky at Logie Steading near Forres.
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme comprises almost 500 different events including distillery tours and tastings, outdoor activities, arts and crafts, food, music and comedy.
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.