Photo. Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is the signature event of the Whisky Month in Scotland’s Year of Homecoming 2009 programme. © Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.
The area is hosting a 10 day ‘dramfest’ starting Friday, 1st May with around 250,000 nips expected to be served to 23,000 visitors at the 10th annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which this year has doubled in length from its original five days.
This has resulted in a 28% rise in bookings, bringing a welcome low season economic boost to Speyside, Moray and the wider Highland area. The Whisky Festival is expected to be worth £750,000 to the local economy with tourists arriving from home and abroad.
The Festival is the signature event of the Whisky Month in Scotland’s Year of Homecoming 2009 programme, a Scottish Government initiative managed by EventScotland, the national events agency, in partnership with VisitScotland to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.
Advance bookings for almost 400 events to be staged during the Festival have proved particularly attractive to visitors from Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the US. But the organisers report interest from as far afield as Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, India, Israel, Republic of Korea, West Indies, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine.
The Scottish Government’s First Minister, Alex Salmond will officially open the festival at a gala dinner on Friday, 1st May at Glenfiddich Distillery, which was the first to capitalise on the tourism potential in the industry by opening a visitor centre exactly 40 years ago.
Now a large number of distilleries countrywide boast visitor centres, and despite a drop in tourism numbers in Scotland in 2008, ScotlandWhisky reports a trend bucking picture for distillery visitor centres recording 0.21% increase in visitors touring a distillery in 2008 compared to the previous year and a spend increase of 12.2%. This growth in interest in Scotland’s national drink has seen a £500m capital investment in the last 18 months by the whisky companies.
Last year, Glen Grant opened a new £500,000 visitor centre, and last week opened a new coffee shop. In addition to investing in equipment to reduce its carbon footprint by reusing waste heat, the Distillery is further investing in re-roofing and re-wiring its 11 maturation warehouses over the next two years.
Other distilleries around Speyside are also eager to demonstrate that the centuries old dram has very firmly arrived in the environmentally-conscious 21st century.
Diageo’s new state of the art distillery at Roseisle in Moray opens this year and the Benromach Distillery is already producing an organic whisky.
To complete the on-going whisky success story in Speyside, Glenfarclas has dispatched its first order to Lithuania, and is looking to capitalise in the North American market having won five Double Golds at the San Francisco World Spirits competition.
Gavin Hewitt, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Whisky is the cornerstone of the Moray economy and local tourism. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is therefore an ideal opportunity to boost the local economy at a difficult time and showcase all that is best about Scotch Whisky to visitors from around the world. It will be a highlight of the Homecoming 'Whisky Month' celebrations."
However, apart from international visitors cashing in on the weakness of the pound, there is growing interest in the UK in holidays at home, with a trip to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival and Malt Whisky Country a possible inclusion in the tourist itinerary.
Almost 400 events at this year’s Festival include 180 whisky tours and tastings, 21 whisky dinners, 12 bracing whisky walks, 12 cooperage tours and a range of distillery visits. And for events with a non-whisky theme, visitors can choose from 18 train rides, ceilidhs, painting exhibitions, cookery demonstrations, landrover tours as well as plenty of retail therapy on offer around the region.
The festival will culminate in ‘Spirit of Speyside’, an outdoor musical celebration on Saturday, 9th May on the banks of the River Spey at Aberlour, with performances from Scottish favourites Capercaillie, pipe bands and fiddlers before a lone piper performs a floodlit solo on the church tower heralding a stunning fireworks display over the Spey itself.
Festival Chairman, Jim Royan extended a warm welcome to visitors from around the world to visit Speyside during the Festival and summarized three main reasons for joining in the 10th anniversary celebrations. He said: “First of all, the Festival celebrates the importance of the Speyside whisky industry economically, socially and culturally to Moray and to Scotland.
“Secondly it highlights the rich variety of landscapes, history and leisure opportunities that the area has to offer. And finally, and most importantly, we’re inviting visitors to come and join in the fun and festivities of a ten day Speyside party!”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
* www.spiritofspeyside.com for further information and on-line bookings
* Easy access by rail or air, including a number of low-cost airline options to Aberdeen and Inverness airport
* The Festival runs a subsidised bus service and taxi voucher scheme
* The Festival also runs several competitions and awards including a Professional Chef competition, Student Chef competition, Photographic Competition and the prestigious Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards
* Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2009 has received funding from Homecoming Scotland 2009 and EventScotland and is also financially supported by many other private and public partners
* EventScotland is the national events agency working to make Scotland one of the world’s leading event destinations. It manages two funding programmes: The International Programme which is designed to support events that attract a significant economic impact from visitors from outside Scotland and profile Scotland on the International stage and The Regional Programme which is designed to support events that drive domestic tourism and profile the particular region in which they take place. EventScotland.org: www.eventscotland.org
* Homecoming Scotland 2009 is a Scottish Government initiative managed by EventScotland, the national events agency, in partnership with VisitScotland, the country's national tourism agency. Robert Burns is the inspiration for Homecoming Scotland as 2009 is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s national poet. Homecoming Scotland will engage Scots at home as well as motivate people of Scottish descent and those who simply love Scotland, to take part in an inspirational celebration of our culture, heritage and some of the many great contributions Scotland has given to the world. www.homecomingscotland2009.com
* Further media information and photographs from Caroline Keith at theKeithconsultancy on 01463 811000 or 07734 543 923
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