PRETTY MUCH EVERY aspect of whisky production on Speyside is set to be scrutinised by an appreciative public at the forthcoming Spirit of Speyside Festival.
While unique access to distilleries that would not normally be open to the public will be high on the agenda for the thousands of visitors to the region, among the 500 events taking place this year will see many visiting other important sites in the production process.
There would be no whisky without barley and tours of Boortmalt Buckie Maltings will reveal all aspects of malting process including drying, storage, steeping, germination and kilning. The process will be described at each stage and its influence on distilling performance.
The small Speyside Distillery near Aviemore is the most southerly in the Speyside region, and it throws open its doors especially for the Festival, to welcome a limited number of guests to its Art of Distilling tour.
And providing the expert touch will be writer Dave Broom, who will deliver a Whisky Mountain Tasting of special drams featured on the Festival toposcope at the summit of nearby Ben Rinnes. The good news is that participants don’t have to pull on hiking boots and climb the region’s highest summit to enjoy this one – it takes place in its shadow, the comfortable surroundings of Edinvillie Hall.
Dave will share what makes Speyside and its whiskies so special to him, guide participants through the nosing and tasting of his personal selection of six very special malt whiskies from distilleries associated with this ‘whisky mountain’ and which are featured.
Most of these will have been specially drawn from casks by distillery managers at his specific request and they include some outstanding releases which have recently attracted his attention.
Alchemy and Angels will reveal fascinating secrets about the history and distillation of The Glenlivet from master distiller Alan Winchester. Alan, who was recently named the top Master Distiller of the Year, has spent over 40 years distilling whisky and is responsible for the enduring legacy of the iconic single malt.
He will be joined by maturation director Brian MacAulay who is responsible for the selection of the casks used to mature this single malt whisky, who will share a tasting of drams from a selection of casks to illustrate their influence on the new spirit.
And for those who are utterly devoted to furthering their knowledge about Scotch malt whisky, there are still some places available at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky School. During this three-day education experience, which starts before the Festival kicks off, students will be guided by experts in the distillation process and learn about all aspects of whisky making from malting to maturation.
All students who successfully complete the course will gain a diploma and a knowledge about whisky making on Speyside that is second to none.
Festival chairman James Campbell says: “Where else in the world can you learn about the art of distilling, pick the next exclusive cask, hear a master distiller discuss alchemy and angels or have a whisky tasting in the shadow of the region’s highest peak all in one weekend?
“The Festival has become a must-do for whisky acolytes at home and abroad and it is thanks to the support of our many partners that we have achieved that status.
“While there may be competitive rivalries within the industry, what we see during the Festival is unity and co-operation, making the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival the outstanding success that it is.
“Our partners show imagination and flair in coming up with new and dynamic offerings to add to our programme every year. It’s what sets us apart from other festivals and, I’m sure, it’s what keeps our visitors coming back year on year. It means the Speyside whisky experience is the most authentic you will sample anywhere.”
The five-day festival runs from April 27 to May 1 – information on all of the events taking place and ticket availability can be found online.