There’s less than a month to go until the five-day Spirit of Speyside festival takes over Scotland’s most active whisky producing region.

This year’s Festival will include a whopping 300 events, with 51 distilleries opening their doors to show visitors behind the scenes. The Glenlivet will host this year’s opening dinner on the 2 May at its distillery.

Festival organiser Mary Hemsworth – who’s come on board for her second year running – told me she feels people in the region are really “getting behind the festival and bringing new innovative events to the programme.”

New this year to the events calendar will be Tamdhu distillery tours and the Ardmore Distillery ‘Whisky Shots’ event, which blends photography with whisky tasting. This year’s whisky awards will also be going on the road, with the six finalist whiskies being taken throughout Speyside to where visitors will be so that people coming to the festival will have the chance to sample and vote for which whisky wins out. The awards will be announced on the 5 May at the Whisky Awards Lunch.

But it’s not only about visiting distilleries. Last year, I took part in a whisky masters quiz and hiked the ‘Smugglers’ trail’ at The Glenlivet and took an ancient train from Dufftown to Keith, learning about the history of the area. The festival was as much about celebrating the stunning surrounds in which the whisky is made as it was about the whisky itself.

Mary HemsworthMary told me she believes people should come to the festival because of “its uniqueness.”

“It’s the only festival of its kind in the world, set in beautiful scenery with 51 distilleries producing seven of the top 10 whiskies in the world. It’s a whisky lover’s paradise.

“It’s also a wonderful opportunity for visitors to see and experience exactly where their favourite drams come from. The people of Speyside make a huge difference too, by being welcoming, knowledgeable and friendly.”

I can attest to all of her points, having visited last year. The four days I spent in Speyside were some of my most memorable of the whisky year – I wrote about it here – and it was the openness, friendliness and great energy around the festival which made it so wonderful. Visits to Strathisla, Glenfarclas, Benromach and The Glenlivet distilleries made me feel so much more connected to this industry I love and I can’t recommend it enough.

Mary concurred: “There is a really great, can I use the word ‘spirit’ around the festival and I think this is really what I enjoyed the most.”

For more information on the festival and to get tickets, visit: