Malt, music and the natural magnetism of a breathtaking landscape — the ‘Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival’ is an event unlike any other; the delicious taste of a great drink enjoyed in its natural habitat, the pulsating throb of a community drenched in pure, unbridled joy, and the scents, sounds, scenes of a country’s true pastime.
Indeed, Spirit of Speyside is a one-of-its-kind experience, a vibe you simply can’t afford to miss. This year, the 18th edition of the festival will be held from 27 April to 1 May. This is the largest festival of its kind and whiskey connoisseurs of all ages, across the world come together to soak in the best whiskeys accompanied by some soulful tunes.
It is also interesting to note that Speyside (the largest whiskey-producing region in Scotland) is now a key marker on the Scottish tourist map, offering over 500 whiskey-inspired events.
The Tale behind the Spectacle
Before we begin to unravel all that’s Speyside, a short history lesson is in order. Located in the Moray area of northeastern Scotland sandwiched between Aberdeen and Inverness, nearly half of the whiskey distilleries in the country are in Speyside.
Borrowing its name from the river Spey, it’s said that the area ‘is to single malt whiskey what Silicon Valley is to computers’. Speyside’s relationship with whiskey began around 1824 with the founding of Glenlivet. The high concentration of whiskey makers soon followed, forming a tradition that now dates over hundreds of years.
Beyond the drink and its varied manifestations, there’s so much else on offer at Speyside. The fantastic outdoors (tall mountains, murmuring brooks, and dazzling vistas) complement the fine whiskeys – evoking Scotland’s rich history and the cadence of its people.
You’ll bump into pubs and distilleries at every bend — both new and old. Historic castles and enchanting village halls exude nostalgia – the palpable sense of a bygone past comes alive in this beautiful getaway.
And for the connoisseur with a purpose, there is a fascinating (almost labyrinthine) pathway to explore; find out more about favorite single malts, hear interesting back-stories and delve deeper into the core of the whiskey-making process by visiting distilleries in the Speyside area.
Begin with the Ballindalloch Distillery and The Glenlivet Distillery in Ballindalloch and move on to the Dallas Dhu Historic Distillery in Forres, Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, and The Macallan in Craigellachie.
The festival includes whiskey tasting sessions, as well as ‘open days’ at most of these distilleries. Visitors can admire the huge vats that hold the barley, soaked in water and left to germinate, and the copper stills where the alcohol extracted from the mixture of water, malt, and yeast is distilled twice.
At the cooperage in Speyside, one can also watch workers make and repair casks that hold the whiskey before it is bottled.
Where to Stay in Speyside
Festivalgoers can choose from the many accommodation options available. Put up in country cottages, landmark hotels, elegant castles, or any of the modern B&Bs. One can also go camping in the outdoors amid Speyside’s striking landscape.
No matter what kind of a traveler you are (uber-luxurious or simply hitchhiking across the land), Speyside has something for everyone.
The St. Michaels Guesthouse in Elgin, The Maltings in Aberlour, and the Station Hotel in Rothes are some interesting alternatives.
Planning Your Journey – Ways of Reaching Speyside
The Inverness Airport and the Aberdeen International Airport are situated close to Speyside. There are scheduled flights between Inverness and a host of cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Gatwick, London’s Heathrow, Manchester, and Amsterdam.
Scotland’s national railway service, ScotRail, links Speyside to Aberdeen, Inverness, and beyond. The closest railway stations to Speyside are Elgin, Keith, and Aviemore.
Bus services connect Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness. Cars are also available to take visitors from major cities in Scotland.
So, there you have it – a little sketch of all that’s Speyside. Lilting music, verdant surroundings and a flood of that golden ‘warmth-on-your-tongue and soft-on-your-chest’ goodness are what awaits you at this ultimate Scottish getaway. An aficionado’s heaven and a young fan’s joy – Speyside is a must-visit for the eager whiskey-drinker.