IT has attracted visitors from more than 30 countries and helped to cement the area as a go to destination for whisky lovers and last year Spirit of Speyside whisky festival had come of age.
With three out of every five tourists coming to Speyside for whisky tourism, there is no doubt the festival has become an iconic event on the international whisky calendar and is now Scotland’s biggest whisky festival.
However, the event which had been due to take place in the middle of last year’s lockdown and had to be cancelled with organisers hoping they would be able to welcome people back this year.
With restrictions still in place, organisers have now announced they intend to hold a virtual event in Spring to bring together some of the region’s most loved distilleries and whisky makers. Events confirmed for the April event so far include a tour of one of Scotland’s newest and most contemporary distilleries, Dalmunach Distillery, from Master Distiller, Alan Winchester; an exploration of Benriach’s World of Flavour and new portfolio with Global Brand Ambassador Stewart Buchanan and a whistle stop virtual tasting tour of Malt Whisky Country with The Malt Whisky Trail.
Festival organisers are hopeful that the event will be able to go ahead in person from November 3 to 8 providing it is safe for everyone to travel at that time, based on Scottish Government advice.
The decision to postpone original plans for the 2021 Whisky Festival reflects current recommendations from the Scottish Government to restrict public gatherings and travel as a preventative measure.
James Campbell, Chairman at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, said: “Given whisky lovers won’t be able to come to Speyside for our annual festival this April, we have decided to take the festival to them until it is safe for visitors to return to Malt Whisky Country hopefully later in the year.
We can’t wait to welcome new and returning visitors from the UK and further afield to this beautiful part of the world. In the meantime, we hope that our online programme of events in April will lift everyone’s spirits and give people a taste of what to expect from the festival in November. We will then revert back to our traditional date in 2022.”
Home to the highest concentration of distilleries of all whisky regions in the world, Speyside also produces the largest volume of whisky and contributes significantly to the sector that is worth £130 million to the region’s economy.
The idea for a festival began when a few distillers decided to give something back to the local community and showcase not just the whisky but what the area had to offer.
There had been high hopes for the 2020 season coming off the back of record-breaking years in terms of growth for the distillers in the area for 2018 and 2019.
The virtual festival will go ahead in April
Highlights of the festival in 2019, its 20th anniversary included a blending masterclass at GlenAllachie Distillery in Aberlour, the Whisky Awards Ceilidh and the Speyside trail run along with riverside tasting.
Jo Robinson, VisitScotland Regional Director, said she was pleased to hear one of the regions most popular events was going ahead in a slightly different form.
Ms Robinson said: “This continues to be an incredibly challenging time for Scotland’s tourism and events industry. I applaud the organisers of the Spirit of Speyside for their creativity and commitment to ensuring that virtual visitors can still celebrate our national tipple and learn about the region’s world famous whisky products and experiences. I wish the event the best of luck and will remain hopeful that a full festival can take place safely later this year, should restrictions allow. Whisky tourism is an important part of Moray’s offering and this new online festival will help whet the appetite of whisky lovers far and wide until travel is possible once again.”
Iain Allan, Board Member of The Malt Whisky Trail and Glen Moray Visitor Centre Manager, said: “We are really looking forward to hosting our virtual ‘Taste the Trail’ event at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in April. It’s a great opportunity for whisky-lovers world-wide to join us here in beautiful Speyside from the comfort of their own homes. We hope that The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival can go ahead in person as planned in November as we are all looking forward to welcoming people back to this iconic part of Scotland when it is safe to do so.”