Spirit of Speyside Festival 2014

Spirit of Speyside

As most of you will know, May was designated ‘whisky month’ by the big wigs at Visit Scotland as part of the 2014 Homecoming Year. At the start of the May I was lucky enough to be invited up to the Spirit of Speyside Festival as a guest of Chivas Bros, to enjoy their hospitality, tour a couple of their Speyside distilleries and generally stretch their marketing budget as much as I dared. Now, I apologise in advance if I sound like an utter dick for the rest of this article, because it’s basically me telling you how awesome my time was up in Speyside for the four days I was there. If you read no further then I really don’t blame you, but my take home message would be to do anything you humanly can to attend next year’s Spirit of Speyside festival. Yes, it’s that good.

As you may expect on a press trip like this, the schedule was packed tighter than an Edinburgh tram in a rain shower. For example, as soon as I arrived at Keith train station after a very leisurely journey north, I was met by Chivas Bros International Brand Ambassador Ann Miller and whisked off to a blending session at Strathisla with the legendary Colin Dunn. After constructing a blend which would rival Chivas 25yo for elegance and complexity (if I do say so myself) I checked in to the equally elegant Linn House for a bit of down time before heading to the Spirit of Speyside opening dinner at Glen Grant Distillery. The dinner and fine whiskies aside (including the Glen Grant Five Decades which I’ve previously had the pleasure of tasting alongside the iconic Dennis Malcolm), we were treated to a hilarious speech on the history of drunkenness by Charlie Maclean, delivered in a fashion that… well… only Charlie Maclean can deliver.

Charlie being… Charlie

Day two began with a tour of Aberlour Distillery with Ann Miller, followed by a walk along the stunning (and unexpectedly hilly) James Fleming Trail before a hearty lunch at the Mash Tun. With my stomach lined it was back to Aberlour for a maturation masterclass with Ann and then a much needed nap at Linn House in preparation for a Cask Strength Editions dinner at Strathisla Distillery. My final full day in Speyside started with a guided walk up to the original site of The Glenlivet Distillery with Alan Winchester, master distiller at Glenlivet, and a dram of the new Glenlivet Single Cask Release – Glenlivet Auchbreck – which was bottled exclusively for the 2014 Spirit of Speyside Festival. This whisky takes its name from the Auchbreck village which is built around the site of an old church frequented by George Smith, founder of Glenlivet, almost 200 years ago.

The Glenlivet Auchbreck
15yo Single Cask
50.4% ABV
£200 at the distillery only

Nose: Pineapple, coconut, banana, mango, white grapes, apple flavoured Jolly Ranchers and lemon sherbet. It’s bursting with tropical fruits!

Palate: Vanilla and banana dominate, with other notes of candyfloss, lemon cheesecake, pear, fudge and pine wood.

Finish: Creamy vanilla, lingering tropical fruits with a touch of oak.

Overall: A beautiful example of The Glenlivet, but at £200 it’s outside my budget for a 15yo whisky. I’m a bit spoilt as I got to taste it on a sunny morning at Upper Drumin in the company of Alan Winchester. Having said that, it’s a cask strength, single cask, distillery only exclusive and the liquid is fantastic so I can see why people will buy it.

After a tour of The Glenlivet distillery with distillery manager Trevor Buckley (and a few more drams) it was time for a tasting of some weird and wonderful Glenlivet whiskies with Charlie Maclean, which included single cask samples from 1969 and 1959. These whiskies were truly outstanding, and a privilege to taste. After bottling our own Glenlivet (an 18yo single cask), the evening was spent at Aberlour eating stunning canapés matched with various Aberlour whiskies before a trip to the Fleming Hall for some music… and maybe some more whisky.

The Glenlivet Stillhouse

As I sped south the morning after, I reflected on what had been some of the most enjoyable days in my short whisky career. A huge thank you to all the folks at Chivas Bros – particularly Ann Miller and Jim Long for their hospitality. It was also great to bump in to (in no particular order), Miss Whisky, Whisky Lassie, the Whisky Belle, Blair Bowman, Siobhan Paterson, Peter Prentice, Gavin D Smith, Robin Laing… and everyone else who made it such a magnificent trip. Roll on Spirit of Speyside 2015!



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Judging honours & awards

Icons of Whisky Communicator of the Year 2020            World Whiskies Awards Judge Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards Judge         Independent Bottlers Challenge JudgeJudge Global Scotch Masters Judge           Scottish Whisky Awards Judge EWA Certificate                    EWA Diploma