Spirit of Speyside – Whisky Festival

It was in early March this year when I received a grand invitation Chivas Brothers (via Elly Barham-March of Manifest London) to go up to Speyside for a special press trip from the 1st May till 3rd May. This trip involved visiting Distilleries not normally open to the public. This “Off the Beaten Track Tour”, won the Award for the Best New Event of the 2018 Festival.

Day One

Departing Aberdeen in two Range Rovers we headed to Speyside. Tristan Campbell – International Brand Ambassador at Chivas Brothers will be giving us tours of Allt a Bhainne, Braeval, Tormore and Dalmunach distilleries which are not normally open to the visitors. At lunchtime, the Range Rovers transported us up a mountain track to Ghillie Basan’s home for a tutored tasting from each of the distilleries and by a long way, my favourite was the Tormore 14-Year-Old. The tasting finished and we then received a delicious buffet lunch prepared by Ghillie Basan which was mainly Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Grand tours with fantastic whisky and lunch. A wee bit of trivia Longmorn Distillery built in the mid-50s cost only half a million pounds and Dalmunach Distillery only 4 years old at a cost of 40 million pounds.

If this tour is still available in 2020 please keep in touch with Spirit of Speyside website to be sure to get a place on this outstanding event.

After the distillery tours, we headed for Linn House to check in for a couple of nights. On arrival we all got changed into our evening wear, kilts etc. cocktails in the bar and then off to Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Opening Dinner, being held in the wonderful Glenlivet Distillery. Great food and even better drams, it was also great to meet up with so many friends Charlie Maclean, Annabel Meikle, Dave Craig, Alwynne Gwilt, Herman Van Broekhuizen, Joel Harrison, Hans Offringa, Iain Allan, Graham & Fay Coull, Graeme Cruickshanks and Sean Murphy to mention just a few.

After dinner, back to Linn House for a nightcap and off to bed to get some sleep before another full on day tomorrow.

Day Two

After breakfast, we all walked to Strathisla Distillery (Home of Chivas) firstly for a guided tour by Alex Robertson, Head of Heritage and Education. This was followed by a “blend your own” session, trying to create your own blend in the style of Chivas Regal and included us taking away a 20 cl bottle of our own blend. Alex also took us down to the Chivas Brothers Archive, we were only their for about half an hour and I could have spent hours. They such a huge selection of old manuscripts and almost every bottling every made, I was like a wee boy in a sweetie shop.

Back to Linn House for lunch. 

After lunch back to Strathisla for the Chivas Cellar Tasting. This was an exclusive tasting straight from the casks. The Cellar is within Warehouse 3. Each dram was natural cask strength and included a Bourbon barrel of Chivas Regal 12 years old, a hogshead of Chivas Regal 18-year-old, a sherry butt of Chivas Regal 25 years old and another sherry butt containing a 25-year-old Strathisla. It does not get much better than this.

The cellar tasting was followed by an interactive and competitive session with the Chivas Brothers’ Expert Blending Team led by Sandy Hislop, Director of Blending. This event was an opportunity to test us all against the elimination tests that any aspiring whisky blender must pass. Nosing a range of samples of malted barley, single malt whiskies, grain whiskies, water used in the flushing of the pipes and new make spirit. After this competition, each of the three members of the Chivas Blending Team surprised us all with a choice of tastings which included Chivas Regal Ultis, The Glenlivet 25-year-old and a Royal Salute 38-year-old, wow ‘o’ wow.

Back to Linn House to get ready for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Opening Ceilidh.

Once again the Glenlivet Distillery hosted this unforgettable evening of Whisky, music, food and dancing. I was more than delighted to be sat next to Alan Winchester, The Master Distiller at Glenlivet. To say I was honoured to spend a good few hours chatting to Alan about all things whisky would be an understatement. A fantastic night with friends visiting other friends tables exchanging drams, the way it should be, a grand end to a grand couple of days.

BIG thanks to. Graeme Gardiner associate Global Brand Communications Manager, Tristan Campbell, Alex Robertson, Sandy Hislop and his team, Alan Winchester, Ghillie Basan and all at Linn House, if I have missed anyone, sorry. 

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