The 'water of life' beloved of Burns is synonymous with his homeland and, as Scotland celebrates the 250th anniversary of the bard's birth, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival offers a unique opportunity to sample the delights
of both whisky and Scotland.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (1st-10th May) forms the highlight of Whisky Month in Scotland's Year of Homecoming 2009 programme and offers an exciting selection of exclusive events for everyone from the casual whisky consumer and the connoisseur to the non-whisky drinker.
Speyside lies between Inverness to the west and Aberdeen to the east and is home to over 50 distilleries - more than half of Scotland's malt whisky distilleries - and the Festival programme capitalises on its location at the heart of Scotland's Whisky Country, the area's culture and heritage, outdoor activities, food and drink and landscape.
Almost 300 events include 180 whisky tours and tastings offered by some of the world's leading brands such as Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, 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 and landrover tours.
Festival goers can also enjoy a rare peek behind the scenes at other well
known distilleries in the area, usually closed to the public, including
Mortlach, Benrinnes, Tamdhu and Tomintoul.
And if whetting the whistle wakens a deeper interest in whisky, then
visitors will be able to delve deeper into the production process with a
series of lectures and demonstrations covering topics from mashing and
fermentation to the art of cooperage.
For the true whisky enthusiast, an exclusive new addition to this year's
programme is the Malt Whisky School, three knowledge-packed days of
lectures, workshops, distillery and cooperage visits for a limited number of
18 lucky aficionados of the drink.
After discovering the delights of the dram, whisky lovers and would-be
gourmets can take the opportunity to learn more about the spirit's role as
an ingredient or accompaniment. Workshops looking at the relationship
between whisky and cheese, whisky and chocolate, and of course, whisky and
haggis will run throughout the Festival, with a number of distilleries
hosting lunches and dinners featuring menus carefully constructed to
compliment the contents of their casks.
And what better way to work off these indulgences than by joining one of the
many walks through Whisky Country? Take a gentle "dramble" around the seven
distilleries of Dufftown, or take advantage a special guided 'hike' with
whisky expert Dave Broom to the summit of Ben Rinnes and enjoy the panoramic
views across the Cairngorms north to the Moray Firth and south to Lochnagar.
And there's the chance of spotting mountain hare and ptarmigan on other
guided walks and off-road trails in the wilder parts of the Cairngorm
Visitors can also follow in the footsteps of the Speyside smugglers - whose
illicit stills were hidden in the hillsides and backcountry braes and whose
existence echoes in the culture and customs of whisky communities today -
where festival goers will be invited to join ceilidhs and concerts performed
by traditional talents.
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 iconic Scottish group 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.
Prior to heading home festival goers may feel the need for retail therapy to
select souvenirs of time spent on Speyside. Highly recommended are visits
to Johnsons Cashmere in Elgin, where woollens are washed in the same soft
Speyside water used to create those wonderful whiskies; Brodie Countryfare
near Forres, a family run business which offers a wide selection of country
wares, food and home interiors; Baxters Highland Village at Fochabers
offering speciality shops, cookshop, gift shop and restaurants; and Gordon
and MacPhail's retail shop in Elgin featuring a quality delicatessen, local
produce and probably the largest selection of malt whisky on retail sale
anywhere in the world.
From the first drams to the last golden drops sipped at the Spirit of
Speyside Whisky Festival, visitors will be immersed in the culture of Whisky
Country and will get a true taste of the Speyside spirit.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
* www.spiritofspeyside.com <http://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.
* 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
Redfield Farm Cottages
Inverness IV1 3XD
T: 01463 811000
M: 07734 543923
CIPR Excellence Awards Finalist 2006 'Outstanding Achievement by a Small Consultancy'