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Issue 63 - Raising the stakes

Whisky Magazine Issue 63
April 2007


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Raising the stakes

The Spirit of Speyside Festival has grown in to a major celebration of the region's food and drink. So how do you set about catering for such an event? Dominic Roskrow went to find out

As anybody who has ever been to a dinner where hundreds of people sit down to eat at exactly the same time will know, it is no easy task. When the diners are there not for some secondary purpose such as an awards ceremony or to watch entertainment, but specifically to celebrate the food and drink on offer, the stakes become far higher – no pun intended.

And when the drink you're celebrating, and liberally tasting, is whisky – well there are all sorts of potential pitfalls to negotiate, and woe betide you if the meal doesn't come up to scratch or arrives late to the table.

So these are just some of the challenges facing the organisers of the annual Spirit of Speyside festival which takes place every May Bank Holiday and which has grown into a major event on the Scottish calendar. As recently as three years ago the festival was a messy patchwork quilt that had no cohesion or recognisable theme.

Now it includes a gala dinner that attracts about 300 people and last year counted Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond among its guests.

Diners are invited to taste the final Speyside whiskies short-listed by a panel of judges at March's Whisky Live London event before they sit down to dinner. So they have already tasted the finest the region has to offer on the drink side. How do you match it for food?

This year that's the task of Graham Harvey and Sheila McConachie of the Craggan Mill Restaurant in Grantown-on-Spey, Morayshire. But if anyone should be prepared for the sca...

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