4 May 2011

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2011 Part 1

A 400 mile journey from home, stunning 360 degree picture postcard views, wall to wall warm sunshine, fine food, great people and luscious liquid libations synonymous with the region.

For late April you could quite easily mistake this discription for the likes of Cognac in the west of France, though as much as I love to frolic around on the other side of the English Channel, it's definately not what I'm reffering to in this instance.

Infact what it does describe perfectly, is the three days I recently spent at this years very splendid Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in sunny warm Scotland, yes you heard me right sunny and warm!

The Splendour of Speyside
The trip which was organised by Chivas kicked off by meeting up with a few fellow whisky personages at Aberdeen airport, including the Caskstrength boys Joel and Neil, Lucas from the Edinburgh Whisky Blog, Tim Forbes from The Whisky Exchange and whisky writer and all round great guy Dave Broom.

No sooner had we all met, the itinerary countdown clock started to tick, so with no time to waste we headed off from Aberdeen to the heart of Speyside and our first port of call at The Glenlivet Distillery.

Ian Logan in action at The Glenlivet
It’s always a pleasure to bump into Ian Logan (International Brand Ambassador for Chivas) though usually it’s at one of the many whisky festivals around the UK. So meeting him at the actual distillery for ‘The Glenlivet Ambassadors Tour’ made for a great start to the trip.


In addition to an insightful and entertaining tour around the distillery, which now has a fabulous traditional yet contemporary cathedral-esque feel to it following its expansion, we were treated to a rather special dram of Glenlivet 1979 straight from the cask in Warehouse No: 1.

Mash Tun, Washbacks and Stills at The Glenlivet
Our next stop following a brief diversion to our rather lavish lodgings at Linn House, was the Knockando Distillery, for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards and Opening Night Dinner.

We were invited to take part in the judging for the awards and were given six malts in three categories to nose, taste and vote on. The whiskies were: Up to 12 years old Aberlour a’bunadh vs Balvenie Signature 12, 13-20 years old The Glenlivet 15 vs The Glenlivet 18 & Over 20 years old Balvenie Portwood 21 vs Glenfiddich 30. Later that evening we found out that the A’bunadh, Livet 18 and Fiddich 30 all won their respective categories.

The Nominated Drams
A rather fine dinner then followed in one of the warehouses at the Knockando distillery, which was kitted out rather splendidly for the occasion. We were treated to some superb Scottish smoked salmon, local corn fed chicken with a Scottish twist and a selection of deserts which can only be described as monstrously mamouth.

The Opening Night Dinner
Throughout the evening we also enjoyed a selection of drams that were nominated in the aforementioned awards, along with a Knockando 18 year old which went well with the parts of the desert we did manage to finish. We were also treated, if that’s the word, to a speech by former Labour MP Brian Wilson.

Shortly after midnight we all stumbled back on the coach and headed back to Linn House for a nightcap and some much needed sleep.