Akin to the bottlings from Islay distilleries for Fèis Ìle in May/June, these annual releases serve as an extra attraction, and a particularly special souvenir, for the visitors who descend on on Speyside in their thousands for the festival.
This year's Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival takes place from 26 April to 1 May, so keep an eye out for festival bottling launches in this window – whether through ticketed launch events at the festival, exclusively at distillery visitor centres and shops, or through distillery websites.
Here are some of the festival bottlings and other special releases to look out for:
The Exceptional Cask Series – 18 Years Old Double Cask Saint Émilion Red Wine Finish
This Spirit of Speyside edition is a new release in Craigellachie's Exceptional Cask Series. Previous iterations have included a 39 Years Old distilled in 1980 and matured in a refill bourbon hogshead, and a 17 Years Old distilled in 1999 and finished for two and a half years in a Palo Cortado cask. The 'double cask' refers to the fact that the whisky has been finished, but it is the content of a single cask. During the festival, it will be exclusively available to guests at events from the Craigellachie Distillery, with general release after the festival through the Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery and online at shop.dewars.com.
Tasting notes, supplied by Craigellachie: Crème caramel and cocoa are balanced with a delicate fruity base of pineapple and blackcurrants, with an aromatic nuance of orange peel and black pepper. The distillery's signature pineapple note is ever present.
17 Years Old Ruby Port Pipe
This single cask from Billy Walker and his team at GlenAllachie was distilled in 2005 and bottled in February this year. In total, just 643 bottles from the cask will be available. The GlenAllachie Distillery is running behind-the-scenes tours and tastings throughout the festival, and 'meet the master' tastings with Walker himself.
Tasting notes, supplied by GlenAllachie: Pink sunset in colour. On the nose, notes of ginger, pink grapefruit and heather honey, with hints of truffle oil, pecan and strawberry jam. On the palate, bursts of opal fruits, dried mango and butterscotch, followed by toffee apples, hazelnuts and ginger, with notes of cinnamon and raisin on the finish.
12 Years Old Madeira Cask, 12 Years Old Non-Sherry European Oak Butt
Glenfiddich has two festival releases for 2023, both distilled in 2011 and bottled at 12 years old: Cask No. 593, a Madeira cask which was likely used for cask finishing before being filled in 2011; and Cask No. 3545, a European oak butt which was prepared for maturing sherry but delivered to Scotland as a virgin oak cask. They were bottled at 63% ABV and 61% ABV respectively. A total of 190 bottles of each single malt will be available, priced at £200.
Tasting notes, supplied by Glenfiddich malt master Brian Kinsman:
Cask No. 593: "The Madeira cask is relatively unusual and has a really spicy / vibrant note.
Cask No. 3545: "The vast majority of the aroma and flavour of a sherry butt comes from the oak rather than the sherry and this is first hand evidence of that... The colour, nose, and taste are all as a result of it being toasted European oak."
Mannochmore 5 Years Old Madeira Barrique
This 5-year-old from independent bottler Murray McDavid hails from Mannochmore Distillery. Primarily used to supply malt whisky for parent company Diageo's blends, single malt bottlings from Mannochmore are rare. The whisky for this festival bottling was matured in a Madeira barrique from Justino's, which holds one of the largest stocks of Madeira wine on the island, and is bottled at 54.7% ABV.
Tasting notes, supplied by Murray McDavid: Burnt sienna in colour. Aromas of dried apricots, strawberry liquorice, sweet malt, milk chocolate, fruit, and nuts. On the palate, baking spices, juicy sultanas, oily burnt orange, brandy snaps, and praline. Fruits mellow to lingering sweet oak on the finish.
8 Years Old
This release from the Speyside Distillery is a unique combination of the SPEY Trutina, Tenne, and Fumare single malts, all distilled in 2015. The whisky has been bottled, non-chill filtered, at 57.1% ABV, with 350 individually numbered bottles available at a recommended price of £99.
Tasting notes, supplied by Speyside Distillery: Rich copper appearance. Aromas of spring flowers, vanilla, and a hint of peat. On the palate it has a light though mouth-coating texture, with flavours of honey, raspberry jam, cinnamon, and echoes of light peat smoke. A fusion of sweet spice and light smoke on the finish.
Distillery Reserve Collection – 16 Years Old Cognac Finish
The distillery is hosting two launch events for the bottling on 26 April (sold out) and 28 April – the £150 ticket price includes canapés and cocktails, a tasting of the new expression, and a bottle of it to take home (RRP £115). It will be available in-store from 27 April and online at chivas.com from 1 May.
Tasting notes, supplied by Strathisla: Gooseberry jam, fresh green apples and strawberries, and honeycomb on the nose with hints of toasted hazelnut, popcorn and vanilla sponge cake. The palate has notes of poached pear with cloves and cardamon pods, ripe apricots, clotted cream, and lemon drizzle cake, followed by Brasil nuts and pecans. The finish is smooth and sweet.
125th Anniversary Edition
While it isn't a festival bottling per se, Speyburn Distillery is launching a single cask whisky at the festival to commemorate its 125th anniversary. Just 246 bottles are being made available, including to ticket holders taking part in the Speyburn 125th Anniversary Tour and Masterclass sessions (now sold out).
2008 Port Barrique Full Maturation, and 2011 Peated Port Cask Finish
Again, while not marketed as festival bottlings, Glen Moray is releasing two single casks over the festival weekend which will be exclusively available at the distillery in Elgin. Both make use of port cask maturation: Cask No. 2814, distilled in 2008 and fully matured in a port wine barrique; and Cask No. 6000428, a peated expression distilled in 2011 and finished in a port cask. The expressions were bottled at 61% ABV and 56.3% ABV respectively.
Tasting notes, supplied by Glen Moray:
2008 Port Barrique: Mahogany in colour. On the nose, a decedent hit of citrus orange and freshly peeled nectarines sit with a heady mix of stewed apples, cinnamon, and caramel. On the palate, a wave of marzipan-coated figs combine with sherbet sweets, and strawberry drizzled with sweet warm honey. A gentle, ambling finish that leaves with a gentle kiss of coconut, dried fruits, and soft spice.
2011 Peated Port Cask Finish: Auburn in colour. Bonfire smoke and dark fruits combine on the nose with sweet pineapple and honey. Sweetness and smoke intermingle on the palate, with dark fruits and chocolate balanced against earthy, smoky spice. On the finish, the port and peat influences initially share the palate before smoke wins out, leaving a long, luxurious finish of barbeque and bonfire notes.