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Spirit of Speyside very much alive

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is set to bring an international flavour to the region as it gets ready to host thousands of visitors from around the world from tomorrow for a five day ‘dramfest’.

As it enters its 11th year, the Festival is celebrating the news that global exports of Scotch whisky reached record levels in 2009, despite the economic downturn, and that visitor numbers to Scotland’s whisky distilleries also increased.

Figures published recently by the Scotch Whisky Association reveal exports rose by 3% in value to £3.13billion, contributing £99 every second to the UK trade balance.

The equivalent of 1.1bn 70cl bottles of whisky is being shipped abroad, and Scotch whisky is enjoying success in France and the United States, with Brazil and South Africa both significant emerging markets in 2009.

Advance bookings for over 270 events to be staged during the Festival (Thursday 29 April – Monday 3 May) have proved particularly attractive to visitors form UK, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, United States and Denmark, while festival organisers report interest from as far afield as Singapore, Czech Republic, Japan, Russia, UAE and India.

Festival chairman Jim Royan said: “Whisky is the cornerstone of the Moray economy and local tourism, and the festival celebrates the importance of the Speyside whisky industry not just economically, but also socially and culturally to Moray and to Scotland.

“The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has gone from strength to strength since its inception 11 years ago, and this year looks set to be another major success, offering our visitors a great opportunity to celebrate – and sample – Scotland’s national drink.”

Paul Bush OBE, chief operating officer of EventScotland, the national events agency said: “Spirit of Speyside is the biggest whisky festival in Scotland and a key event for promoting the country as the home of whisky, which is even more apt this year as Scotland celebrates the Year of Food and Drink.

“Whisky was one of the key themes of Homecoming Scotland 2009, and as a result brought the focus back on one of Scotland’s greatest exports which is evident from the record sales last year. EventScotland is delighted to be supporting the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival for the sixth consecutive year and looks forward to yet another fantastic festival.”   
The upbeat mood of the industry was enhanced with the recent news that Scotland’s whisky distilleries welcomed over 1.25million visitors during 2009, a 2.6% increase on 2008, and the recent and upcoming introductions of new and rare whiskies from Speyside.

Last month the world’s oldest bottled single malt whisky – Mortlach 70 Years Old – was revealed by Elgin-based whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail, the first in a series of extremely rare malt whiskies to be released by the company under its ‘Generations’ brand.

Family-owned Glenfarclas has added a new 40 Years Old expression to their portfolio which will be launched on Thursday with unique consumer tastings at the distillery during the festival.

Earlier this year, for the first time in its history, Glen Grant introduced a line of single malt whisky in the United States – a Bourbon cask 16 Year Old is now sold across North America and Europe, and is currently only on sale in the UK in the distillery’s visitor centre.  

To complete the on-going whisky success story in Speyside and for the festival, the Dufftown Whisky Museum has relocated and is re-opening this week, and the festival is hosting the world premiere of the full production of “Whisky Kisses”, a brand-new musical comedy, prior to its Scotland-wide tour.

Renowned yachtsman, Robin Knox-Johnston, will launch the festival at the opening gala dinner at Benromach Distillery, Forres on Thursday 29 April, commencing five days of whisky, music, food and fun in Speyside.  

Events are aimed at the non-whisky drinker as well as the casual whisky consumer and the connoisseur, and include ceilidhs and concerts, specialist whisky tours and tastings, gourmet meals, outdoor activities and fun events.

Royan concluded: “Speyside extends a warm welcome to visitors from around the world as they come to experience Malt Whisky Country and to discover the area’s whisky, people, heritage and culture. We guarantee every one of them an entertaining and fun five day Speyside party.”

Alan Lodge, 28.04.2010

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