It was to be the first time I’d driven on UK roads and the first big whisky festival I had ever attended. As such, leading up to this year’s Spirit of Speyside whisky festival – which occurred from the 3-7 May – I was filled with both dread (at the idea of negotiating small, Scottish B-roads) and overwhelming excitement (at the ‘oh so much whisky’ element).
Upon returning from the fest, I am proud to say I discovered I love driving and contained my whisky hysteria internally so I didn’t frighten any of the hundreds of tourists present.
Over the four days, my little Toyota (which I named Dottie) and I zoom-zoomed our way between Grantown on Spey, Dufftown, Forres and further taking in as much as possible. And while I thought four days would be a lot, it turned out to be merely a fraction of the time I would need to learn about the incredible amount of whisky goodness that sits in the beautiful region of Speyside, which is home to half of Scotland’s distilleries. And, given the festival hosts over 200 events, it was impossible to do it all.
I will say, it is a fantastic event. Despite it being spread out across a rather large area full of winding roads, attendees seemed happy to “go the extra mile” to learn all about this most famous of Scottish trades. I met people from Canada, the US, Germany, Holland, South Africa and China – and they were but a mere fraction of the people who (I’m sure) came to celebrate the fantastic distilling tradition of the region. I hiked hills, learned about smugglers, drank Macallan 1946, splashed around at the seaside, danced to a Scottish boyband, took a steam train to Strathisla (home of Chivas Brothers), wandered around Benromach, laughed over family tales at Glenfarclas and realised I am really, horrendously bad at quizzes.
Over the coming days, I shall be posting up individual pieces, but in the interim, I encourage you to consider heading up to the fest. It is a one-off experience and unlike anything else I’ve attended in the whisky space. The next festival – a smaller version – happens in the autumn from 27 September to 1 October so take a look at their site to find out more. And, until then, I hope you get the chance to try some great Speyside malts because they are truly something we Brits should be proud of.