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Toasting Scotch Whisky

2 minute read
Nick Easen

Head for the highlands! For the seventh year running, the Spirit of Speyside festival is about to salute Scotland’s best-known exportwhisky. From April 28 to May 2, around the towns of Aberlour and Dufftown in the Grampian area of Scotland, you can try more than just a wee dram. The festival includes more than 150 events, including distillery tours, expert lectures, dinners, concerts, and ceilidhs (rhymes with dailies)traditional Scottish country-dancing parties. Out of the 90 or so working distilleries in Scotland, roughly half are in the Spey Valley, and 28 of those open their doors to the public during festival time.

All the big names are here: Glenfiddich, Chivas and Glen Moray. And there’s an opportunity to taste some old malts with George Grant, brand ambassador of Glenfarclas distillery, which has been run by his family for six generations. “There are many whisky festivals around the world, but this is one of the few where you can meet face-to-face the very people that are at the heart of the industry,” says Grant. “In an age of globalization, opportunities to meet with and share the passion of the family distiller are becoming rarer.”

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The Gordon and MacPhail distillery will be conducting a “nosing and tasting” session, where sippers can sample a 1939 vintage whisky that retails for $1,500 a bottle. Talks will be given by, among others, distillery retail manager Ronnie Routledge, who is a Keeper of the Quaichthe industry’s highest accolade for those who have dedicated their professional lives to the promotion of Scotch whisky.

Festivalgoers can mingle with the personalities behind the Highland spiritsconnoisseurs, distillery bosses and learned writers on whiskyas well as sip stocks from distilleries that are no longer in business. Many of these discontinued whiskies are becoming depleted, so it’s a chance to taste rare malts before they’re gone forever. Some major distilleries also launch new malts to coincide with the festival.

There’s even a whisky brunch, complete with three malts and porridge with a dash of Glenfarclas 105, the strongest single malt on the market at 60% alcohol. After a few drams, learning the ceilidh moves of the Eightsome Reel or the Gay Gordons will seem that much easier. Tel: (44-1343) 542 666; spiritofspeyside.com.

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