Friday, 17 December 2010

Speyside Life – Celebrating the Spirit of Speyside

With more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries located in Speyside, the region is the home of malt whisky.  Our guests are often surprised by how many distilleries there are in such a small, remote, and rural corner in the north of Scotland. If you drive from Elgin to Glenfarclas, a journey which takes about half an hour, you will pass twenty distilleries. With so many distilleries, whisky is very much engrained in the local way of life. Normally we quietly enjoy the local spirit, but each year in May things are different, we celebrate with the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.  

At Glenfarclas, as one of the few locally owned distilleries, we are proud to play our part in the festival. This year our two flagship tastings, hosted by my colleague George Grant, included a chance to be amongst the first to taste our new Glenfarclas Forty Years old, and the opportunity to help us select a cask from 1995 to be bottled as part of The Family Casks collection later this year. Along with the authors of The Whisky Kitchen recipe book; Graeme Harvey and Sheila McConachie, I hosted a Glenfarclas dinner. A wonderful feast which started with a Velouté of Haggis, Graeme’s creation, a soup made from haggis with Glenfarclas 15 Years Old.  To build up an appetite for the dinner I led a group of intrepid Glenfarclas fans across the heather to our watersource on Ben Rinnes. Where could be better to enjoy a dram of Glenfarclas 105?

Of course with more than 230 events across Speyside, the festival offers far more than what we host at Glenfarclas. The other events ranged from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky School; three days of undiluted education in the production of single malt, to the infamous Dregs Party; in the Dufftown Whisky Shop, to empty any remaining open bottles on the final night of the festival.

The festival has been going for eleven years, and it brings the distilleries and the Speyside community together. Last year a flag relay across the region was introduced to highlight the best Speyside has to offer. This year the relay ran from Benromach to Glenfarclas incorporating legs by vintage car, on horseback, by mountain bike across the wilds of Dava Moor, and a leg by canoe down the river Spey. Now I don’t own a vintage car, have only ridden once, and am not the fastest on a mountain bike, so it was left to me to venture onto the Spey with some other volunteers to take the flag downstream from Grantown to Advie. Naturally before setting of on our voyage down the river, which is one of the longest and fastest flowing in Scotland, we needed a little something to help us on our way. So after proposing a toast to the river, we shared a dram of Glenfarclas 10 Years Old from a Quaich, Scotland’s cup of friendship.  The river was kind to us, and we enjoyed the Speyside landscape from a different angle, arriving exactly on schedule at Advie Bridge to hand the flag on to the next party of flag bearers.

Plans are already well under way for the festival at the start of May next year. At Glenfarclas we will be hosting a tasting of 1996 cask samples, with a view to bottling one of them for The Family Casks collection. Once again I will host a dinner with The Whisky Kitchen team. I am already looking forward to it.

Robert Ransom
May 2010

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