It’s official! The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2019 is the biggest on record! With over 660 events to choose from, we’ve got something to suit everyone from whisky connoisseurs to those who are just finding their passion for Scotland’s national drink.
But whether you’re a seasoned visitor or coming to the Festival for the first time, the sheer scale of our 20th anniversary event is bound to have you pondering where you start with planning your itinerary. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of a panel of whisky writers and bloggers who are more than happy to lend their advice.
We give you…Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival: The Insider’s Guide!
Sean Murphy, food and drink content editor for The Scotsman
“Over the past few years, I've been privileged to attend to some truly incredible events at the festival and though I would heartily recommend the Off the Beaten Track tour with Chivas and any event that involves either of the wonderful teams at Glen Moray distillery or the Speyside Cooperage, this year my pick would have to be the Mortlach History and Whisky Walk.
“Working by himself, Alastair of the Highland Spirit Bed and Breakfast has embodied the spirit of the festival by creating an incredible tour that reveals some of the stunning history behind one of Speyside's most enigmatic distilleries.
"Not only that, but it also reveals the secret world of the gaugers, the customs and excise men who were looked at often unfavourably by distillery staff and the dirty job they had in trying to prevent the precious spirit being 'liberated' from the distillery before it has had the chance to mature and become the whisky we know and love.”
Dr Christopher White, Editor, Edinburgh Whisky Blog
“With over 660 events to choose from at this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, narrowing it down to one is an almost impossible task. However, I can’t think of another whisky festival where you can canoe down a wonderfully picturesque river and take in some incredible whisky history along the way.
“David Craig, The Spey Specialist & Speyside Whisky Envoy, enthrals those who take the challenge, pointing out varied wildlife, natural phenomena and, of course, everything whisky related that Speyside has to offer. This full day expedition includes a picnic lunch and dram en route and so long as you don’t mind getting a little wet (!), it’s a truly memorable day, and a completely unique way of seeing Speyside.”
Andrew Flatt, The Amateur Drammer
“As a long-time admirer of independent bottlers Gordon & Macphail if I had the chance to pick any event from this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme it would be the Legends of Speyside tasting held at the Gordon & MacPhail retail premises in Elgin.
“Offering a chance to try expressions from some famous Speyside distilleries Strathisla, Mortlach, Glen Grant, Linkwood, and Glenlivet it gives the chance to learn a little about the character that the region itself imbues into the spirit and to see why Speyside malts are so prized by blenders.”
Gavin D. Smith, whisky author and journalist
“So compelling is the Spirit of Speyside Festival that many participants come back year after year, and are looking for something that they haven’t previously experienced. For them, and for anyone who wants to get up close and personal with the whisky-making process, I recommend Speyside Distillery’s opportunity for some ‘hands-on’ distilling.
“There’s nothing quite like actually being involved in the various stages of producing whisky, and at Speyside the morning is spent working alongside distiller Andy, followed by some well-deserved drams. Speyside is not routinely open to the public and is a great little distillery in a beautiful location.
“Don’t miss taking a few minutes to stop off at the nearby ruins of Ruthven Barracks, a poignant reminder of the Jacobite Rising of 1745/46. It was at Ruthven that the surviving Jacobite clansmen who had been defeated by government forces while fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the battle of Culloden gathered after the conflict, only to be told by their leader: ‘Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can.’ Had Speyside Distillery been around at the time, I’m sure the Highlanders could have used a dram or two when they received that news.”
Peter Moser, Friends Of Single Malt
“Speyside is always worth a visit but my favourite time is during the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. This is the only time of the year when you can visit distilleries that are usually not open to the public. These are my favourite events to book and if you can book them combined with transportation and an interesting tasting then you know why I always have to come back to see more of them.
“Ballantine’s Malts Tour of 3 Distilleries will be one of my top events this year as I’m not able to join Off the Beaten Track tour. Another good occasion not to miss is to meet old friends at events like If Glen Moray Did World Cups or at the Opening Ceilidh."
Femke Sijtsma, Whisky Girl
“This year, The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival hits its 20th anniversary. If you haven’t paid a visit in the past, this is the year to go for there is so much to discover. Everyone knows the expression: #WinterisComing, but Cardhu has: #WhiskyisHere, one of my favorite events this year.
“If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, this is the perfect opportunity to experience the authentic taste of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. Enjoy the limited edition of whisky, that was inspired by the Game of Thrones. Taste the sweet symphony and revenge of your choice!
“Which of the Houses of Westeros or the Night's Watch steals your heart in the Cardhu Distillery at Knockando? Whisky is here for the throne, May 1.”