One of the biggest whisky festivals in Europe will take place in Scotland this Spring, with organisers expecting more record breaking crowds from both home and abroad.
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, has become a major international event on the Scottish tourism calendar. Running from 1st-10th May, this year sees the Festival extend from five to ten days, and launch a rebranded and refreshed website on Monday, 19th January.
The 2008 Festival enjoyed its highest visitor numbers ever, noticeably from Central and Eastern Europe and the UK, and organisers hope to see this trend continue, attracting 23,000 visitors throughout the ten day run. The Festival is expected to generate around £750,000 for the local economy as well as helping to raise the profile of the area’s wider tourism product.
This year the Festival has been chosen to play a leading role in the Homecoming Scotland 2009 programme, which marks the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth. It has been designated the Signature Event of the Whisky Theme – May is Whisky Month in the Homecoming calendar - which will help to showcase the heritage, folklore and culture of the River Spey, Speyside and its people and provide a hallmark of quality that will further enhance the festival's reputation.
Marie Christie, Homecoming Scotland 2009 Project Director said: “Whisky is one of the five main themes of Homecoming Scotland 2009 and one of Scotland’s greatest treasures, therefore we are delighted that the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival launches Whisky Month for Homecoming with a newly extended programme which celebrates the very best of Speyside’s whisky, music, dance and song”.
The Festival’s success has received further recognition from EventScotland, the national events agency, which has graduated the Festival to its International Programme.
Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer at EventScotland, said: “EventScotland first supported the festival in 2005 and since then it has undergone a period of significant growth; now attracting in excess of 17,000 visitors, 66% of which come from outside Scotland.
“The strategic approach of the organisers and the passion they have for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has been the driving force behind its growth and it is now one of the few events to graduate from the Regional Programme to meeting the standards required to receive support through the International Programme.
"As such, it is a fantastic example of EventScotland’s work to support and develop the events industry in Scotland. We look forward to continuing to work with the Festival and realising its full potential in the coming years.”
The festival was established in 1999 to celebrate Scotland’s Malt Whisky Country and to help promote tourism to Moray and especially Speyside in the traditionally quieter months. This year, the ten days of whisky, music, food and fun feature a programme of more than 250 events taking place around Speyside between Aberdeen and Inverness.
Events include the prestigious annual Whisky Awards, Professional Chef Competition and Student Chef Competition, and the Festival celebrates a series of tours and tastes of distilleries not normally open to the public, as well as tours to remote distilleries.
New for 2009, is an exclusive Malt Whisky School, a three day master class for a select number of whisky enthusiasts.
Other activities include ceilidhs, music events, whisky/food matching dining opportunities, whisky themed events, pub nights and concerts.
The climax of the ten day long whisky extravaganza will be ‘Spirit of Speyside’, a celebratory evening of musical entertainment at Aberlour to be held outdoors on the banks of the River Spey featuring iconic group Capercaillie, pipe bands, fiddlers and dancers and a stunning fireworks display over the River Spey.
Chairman of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Board Jim Royan said: “The 2009 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival will lift the profile and reputation of the Speyside whisky industry to a new level and draw thousands of visitors from the UK and abroad.
“It already has a reputation which goes beyond whisky but this year we believe we can take it to a new dimension and establish it internationally."
He added: “This year’s Festival will grasp the opportunity of Scotland's Homecoming and embrace every possible opportunity to learn, experience, taste and enjoy the remarkable selection of Speyside Malts.
"However that will only be part of the Spirit of Speyside; we will encourage visitors to share the best of the Scottish larder and explore the history and culture of the wider Moray area. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival will certainly be worth 'coming home' for”.