Spirit of SpeysideI have long held a special place in my heart for the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival, which celebrates all things whisky in the heartland of Scotland’s whisky making region. And so I’m thrilled that once again I am due to be  attending this year and getting a chance to share the tales and experiences of the great region with whisky lovers.

The festival is now in its 15th year and it is looking to be better than ever. With dozens of events at distilleries (many of which, like Roseisle are opening for the first time to guests) and a huge music programme running over the five days, I literally cannot wait.

James CampbellJames Campbell – the festival’s director and chairman – told me the festival is more successful than ever, shown especially in the interest from international guests attending this year.

“In the early years of the Festival we did very well at attracting visitors from Europe, but now there are people from the USA, Canada, Russia, China and Australia. The spin-off of this has been that the Festival has helped to generate millions of pounds for the local economy,” he said.

James said he is most looking forward to this year’s new addition of a music component, the Spirit of Speyside Sessions, which will add to the festival’s ability to appeal to a wide group of people from whisky lovers to those more interested in what the region has to offer.

“We will play host to some of the country’s most talented musicians. Together with malt whisky, this will be a wonderful combination,” he added.

Ann Miller (by Cavit Erginsoy)

Ann Miller is one of the original directors of the festival. She agrees the music will be an added bonus which will hopefully “open the Festival up to a whole new audience” and says the fact there have been a growing number of events over the years has widened the festival’s remit rather than diluted it.

“The professionalism of what we are offering has not been diluted. And, most importantly, our events still offer visitors the chance to meet the people who put the passion into creating the world’s finest whiskies,” she said.

Exciting for me is the fact for the first time I will be hosting events alongside some of my favourite women in whisky – Annabel Meikle, Johanne McInnis and Angela D’Orazio. We’ll be taking over the Aberlour Hotel on the 3 May to host four events all in honour of International Women of Whisky Day (#IWOWD if you’re on Twitter).

The Balvenie distillery in the heart of Speyside.

The Balvenie distillery in the heart of Speyside.


Now I should say: the idea of the day is not to exclude anyone as the classes are open to all whisky lovers and whisky curious. It is more to showcase the fact there are so many women working in and enjoying whisky in this day and age (despite the fact I still have people frequently asking me if I actually drink whisky and frequently suggesting it’s surprising to see a woman enjoying whisky…yes, this happens a lot).

For more information on each of the classes, head to these links (for Johanne, head here; for Annabel, head here; and for Angela, head here); tickets to each class are £20 and some are still available.

And, if you cannot attend the festival itself, you can still take part by giving a shout out on Twitter to whisky loving women around the world. We’re asking all of you to tweet a picture of yourself raising a glass of whisky on the day – be sure to include the hastag #IWOWD as we’ll be giving a shout out to all of those who participate.

This year I also plan to check out a fair number of events, from the Copper Dogs playing at Balvenie Castle to the annual charity auction at Craigellachie to raise funds for the local community hall – something I always think shows off the true spirit and character of this community-focused region. For more details on the latter and to find out how you can donate items for it, head here.

And finally, I just hope to see a few of you up there. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever this year, I’m sure, and I cannot wait to share the experience and love of Speyside with whisky lovers from around the world.