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6 reasons to visit the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival

HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
edited May 31 in Eating and drinking
I checked off a major bucketlist item at the start of May 2018 when I attended the 19th Spirit of Speyside whisky festival between May 4-6 : an event I have dreamt of attending in person for over half a decade. The best part was that it exceeded all my expectations and I will list 6 reasons why anyone wishing to experience a uniquely Scottish festival should attend atleast once (it's a must-visit for whisky fans but is guaranteed to be fun for all). Next year's festival is scheduled to be between 2nd - 6th May 2019 and tickets go on sale in February!
  1. This is a fairly well-known fact but Speyside is home to more than half of Scotland's active distilleries. As a result, there were 500 events across the whole region in only 5 days and even whisky connoisseurs will be able to taste drams that they may have never seen or tasted before (Inchgower 14Y Flora & Fauna was my most memorable 1st time dram, the Benromach's smokiness packs a punch, also see #8)

  2. The festival transport arrangements were absolutely top notch. Not only was the Stagecoach bus 36 from Elgin to Dufftown through the "Malt Whisky trail" running through the whole festival including on Sunday! More so, there was a special all day bus pass pricing for festival goers for only £4 on showing a ticket. Apart from public transport, my favourite distillery (Glenlivet) raised the bar by providing a Free Bus from both Keith and Elgin for their Open Day on Sat 5th May where I met fellow Glenlivet fans from Japan, Norway and the USA. Of course, I took the front row seat on a spectacularly sunny day :) I will leave my full trip map and public transport connections in a comment  
  3. The festival whisky awards are truly democratic as the public actually gets to vote for the winner through blind tastings and ballot papers! I got to taste 4 of the finalists at the spectacular Rothes Station Hotel (it has its own Spirit safe!) and I must say that the Cragganmore 25 was exceptional (and the overall winner!) There are judging events across the 5 days of the festival and are exceptionally popular.
  4. There are so many events that are not whisky related at all! (hence I highlighted that the festival is guaranteed to be fun for all) I sat on a 8-wheeler operated by the Glenlivet Hill Trek company to climb up a hill! The Cairngorms National Park was looking just stunning from the top and I felt like an astronaut. Both the opening and closing ceremonies had Ceilidhs and Craigellachie comes alive with bands playing during the festival. There were also some spectacular food-related events. Alchemy restaurant at Dufftown was fine dining at its best with its 7 courses + whisky pairing. The venison with chocolate and sherry poached pair was magic!  
  5. The festival has some super-exclusive, once a year events (such as a tour of the Craigellachie distillery which is one of my faves along with Tamdhu, Knockando, Longmore, Tormore, Speyside, Speyburn, Knockdhu, Balmenach and Dalmunach which are generally closed to the public). Thanks to the festival chairman Mr James Campbell, I also got to see the erstwhile Tamdhu railway platform with the Spey in view. This should tell you how important whisky was the area.

I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

Comments

  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 1
    Edit fail had me miss out on the most important point - the people

    6. Lastly, the best part of the festival were the people I met. Lets start with meeting @YourScotlandTour in person, finally. There were attendees from 37 countries and if I include my Indian self, I personally talked to people from 10 countries, all in the area sharing their love of whisky. And lastly, I met some stalwarts of the food & drink industry including Glenlivet Master Distiller Alan Winchester (whose name I have read on quite a few labels) and food writer & broadcaster Ghillie Basan. They were absolutely brilliant and the "Legacy Continues" tasting was my favourite event. It was in this tasting that the newest expression, the Captain's reserve, was launched (finished in Cognac casks) and Ghillie had an equally flavourful and exceptional pairing of bites to go with the whisky.







    As you can tell, I think there is something for everyone and I would genuinely recommend anyone interested in Scotland travel in general and whisky lovers in particular to attend the Spirit of Scotland festival in a future iteration - regardless of country of origin, favourite distillery or an ability to drive a car :wink: A big thanks to this year's Keeper of the Quaich (the Scotch industry's highest honour) and festival chairman James Campbell and the entire festival team for organizing a magnificent whisky festival.

    I would love to hear about any other Speyside whisky trips. As always, feel free to ask any questions. I must commemorate meeting @YourScotlandTour (an absolutely powerhouse of whisky knowledge) in person by sharing our picture. If buses are not your style, you should get in touch with him to arrange a trip to the region. 

    Spirit of Speyside whisky festival website
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 1
    It is hardly a coincidence that my final trip map to and from Edinburgh looks like a heart <3 



    Main transport connections

    • Friday: Edinburgh to Elgin by ScotRail (stay overnight at Ardvolich Guest House)
    • Saturday: Glenlivet Open Day provided a free bus from Elgin
    • Saturday: Glenlivet free bus to Dufftown, stay overnight (at a lovely AirBnb)
    • Sunday: Stagecoach bus 36 festival bus to Rothes Station Hotel
    • Sunday: Rothes Station Hotel to Forres by bus 36 to Elgin & ScotRail train*
    • Sunday: Forres station to Edinburgh via Inverness by ScotRail train
    * This was the planned connection but I was instead given a ride by James Campbell via the scenic route where I saw the hyper-modern MacCallan distillery and visitor centre from the outside (the barrels will be stored under the mounds pictured below) along with Tamdhu, Cardhu and Dallas. I cannot wait to revisit the region to explore more for #dram19



    ScotRail Website | Stagecoach bus 36 
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • YourScotlandTourYourScotlandTour Member ✭✭✭
    Hey @Horizons nice write up man!! It was good to finally put a face to the name and have that brief chat! One day we'll get that dram together too! And maybe some food and some more drams :smile: Until the next time - don't spill any!! 
    Bespoke tours.
    Whisky, Castles and Food a speciality.
    yourscotlandtour.co.uk
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Got time to write about the many things I did during my 48 hours spent across Speyside during the festival. Give it a wee read, if you wish. It is also a good opportunity for me to plug that the area is host to the Speyside: Distilled festival this Friday and Saturday and tickets for the event and masterclasses are still available: https://distilled.scot/

    Blogpost: https://beyondourhorizons.com/2018/08/28/speyside-whisky-festival-by-public-transport/

    Also, attaching 3 images from my favourite village of Craigellachie basking in the sunshine






    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • VisitScotlandAmandaVisitScotlandAmanda Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    @Horizons this is AMAZING!! Loving that heart shaped map too - how appropriate
    Kiwi gal, relocated to Scotland. 
    Instagram
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    @VisitScotlandAmanda And without even being intentional about it :smile: I had a lot of difficulty "distilling" everything I got to experience in a single weekend in 1 blogpost but am happy that I have a summary up.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

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