Scotland's Malt Whisky Country comes to life again this spring with the arrival of the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival from 3rd-7th May. The five-day festival welcomes committed connoisseurs and new initiates from across the world who want explore the traditions behind the unique Scottish tipple and discover the passion behind the world's finest whiskies.
A packed programme of over 300 events ensures there is plenty on offer to suit every visitor's taste - from sipping single malts and drambling from distillery to distillery to watching wildlife, savouring the flavour of local food, getting to grips with challenging golf courses or dancing the night away at a local ceilidh.
Visitors will be able to discover the delights of the dram with tours and tastings at many of the area's 50+ distilleries (including exclusive access to distilleries usually closed to the public). There are plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors against the beautiful backdrop of Speyside's spectacular scenery and uncover the spirited history of the region that was home to some of the first smugglers' stills.
This year Festival-goers can join a Whisky and Wildlife Walk to the top of Ben Rinnes, Speyside's "Whisky Mountain", with the chance to spot mountain hares and ptarmigan on their ascent; or they can join in the 'Wild About Scotland, Wild About Whisky' event at the Scottish Dolphin Centre on the mouth of the River Spey, where they can experience encounters with animals including Moray Firth dolphins, ospreys, otters, seals and more before sampling offerings from some of the best distilleries in the area.
Alternatively whisky lovers can follow in the footsteps of the Speyside smugglers, uncovering the secrets of the smugglers' trail as they enjoy guided Landrover or amphibious Argocat tours. And they can learn more about the whisky country communities and crafts with the 'Fae Mill Tae Still' tour of Knockando Distillery and neighbouring Knockando Woolmill or the Speyside Cooperage Tours.
Golfers can take the opportunity to "Nip Around the Course" at Grantown-on-Spey Golf Course enjoying a complimentary dram as they get in swing - perhaps in preparation for the 'Tattiebogle Golf Challenge', which takes place on the Saturday at Rothes Golf Club, where more whisky will be served, of course. And there's a rare opportunity to experience Dufftown Golf Course which boasts two holes that feature in 'Britain's 100 Extraordinary Golf Holes', followed by whisky tasting and a buffet supper.
And if all that activity works up an appetite, event organisers have laid on a sumptuous selection of events for foodies - from the 'Plough to Plate' food and whisky tours and, for the sweet-toothed, 'Balvenie Desserts' pairs whiskies with different desserts, and other workshops allow visitors to match nips with other suitable nibbles, ranging from haggis to cheese to sausages.
Evenings will see a choice between events such as steak nights at the Mash Tun in Aberlour or formal whisky dinners where each course is accompanied by the perfect pouring. In the evenings the Festival gets into the party spirit with plenty of music featuring live bands and traditional ceilidhs (check out Celtic Spirit at Glenfiddich Distillery on Friday and Saturday evening) and events ranging from a Whisky Quiz Challenge to an evening walk along the Spey.
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is also a truly family friendly festival with a wide range of attractions on offer to suit all ages. Youngsters are invited to have Sunday lunch on a steam train, watch the Mounted Cavalcade and Pipe Band Procession leave Craigellachie for Knockando, or enjoy activities at the Benromach Forres Family Fun Day. Families may also want to watch the action at Coleburn Distillery's Whisky Barrel Buggy Race, enjoy a fashion show or take afternoon tea to the sound live traditional music in the Marquee at Brodie Castle.
Festival chairman Jim Royan said: "The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is all about offering everyone the opportunity to enjoy an authentic Whisky Country experience.
"Tickets for events in 2012 are already selling fast and we are all looking forward to hosting the finest festival so far!"
- Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival runs from Thursday, 3rd May - Monday, 7th May. Check out www.spiritofspeyside.com for up-to-date news and follow the Festival at www.facebook.com/WhiskyFestival or www.twitter.com/spirit_speyside
- The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is committed to promoting responsible drinking. Visitors needing to travel to and from festival events can take advantage of a range of transport options including a taxi voucher scheme (sponsored by Diageo) providing festival goers with a 25% reduction on fares with participating operators, various pre-bookable dedicated bus shuttles and even a "Dram Line" off-road Argocat taxi for a day long distillery tour or Saturday night whisky-country-crawl.
- The Festival also runs several competitions and awards including the prestigious Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards as well as the Photographic Competition
- Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has received funding from EventScotland and is also financially supported by many other private and public partners
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