Whisky Magazine Issue 40
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This year's Speyside Festival was a great success. Marcin Miller was there
Visiting a distillery gives you greater understanding of the meaning of whisky. Attending a festival gives you that to the power of 10 or more. How? Contextually, culturally and exclusively, that's how.
Reading about a trek someone else undertook is fine. But it's not the same as lacing up your boots and following an abridged version of the smuggler's trail yourself. On the Sunday of this year's Speyside Festival, 60 people gathered outside Glenlivet Distillery.
Many of them, this contributor included, were sporting hangovers. Alan Winchester, distilleries manager for Chivas Brothers and Andrew Wells, head ranger of Glenlivet Estate, led the party.
Over the next two hours our easy paced ascent allowed plenty of time for conversation, wildlife-spotting and anecdotes from Alan about the whisky history of the area – both illicit and legal. Walking up the hills from behind Glenlivet and seeing the expansive views over the heather to Tomintoul and Tomnavoulin, it is easy to imagine the ease with which illicit distillers could avoid the excise men.
As with so much of whisky country, the 21st century seems distant as you watch the lapwings, catch a glimpse of a roe deer and flush some grouse.
However, as the party enjoyed the peak experience, I regret to say that the moment was spoilt by a reminder of the real, modern world as some inconsiderate fool's mobile phone beeped in receipt of a text message. Sorry about that.
A walk in the hills of Speyside puts into context all th...