Introduction on May 1st 2013
‘Whisky is a great industry in Scotland. Whisky is a great pleasure in the rest of the world’ ~ so said Belgian, now Haig-based whisky writer Jean-Marie Putz.
In its long, rich and colourful history, the Scottish Whisky Industry has never been stronger. In Scotland over 10,000 people are employed in the production and sales of Scotch whisky, with around another 40,000 linked to the whisky trade. You only have to travel mid-week on any section of the A95 between Aviemore and Keith to witness, what I assume to be, a large percentage of that 40,000 figure ~ driving the multitude of malt-lorries and whisky tankers between Speyside and the Scottish Central Belt.
Whisky exports account for over 20% of Scotland’s overseas earning and contributes annually more than £3 billion to the Scottish economy.
Every year ~ over 300 million litres are sold ~ and presumably drunk ~ with pleasure!
The sentiments shared by Jean-Marie Putz are very much in evidence throughout the annual ‘Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival’ ~ now in its 13th year of existence and gaining strength and momentum every year.
With well over 300 different events available to visitors, feedback from this year’s Whisky Festival speaks very much of the warm welcome guests experience from their Speyside hosts. Accommodation & activity providers, retail outlets ~ simply everyone with connection to Speyside tourism ~ in particular the tourist-drawing whisky industry, really pulls out the stops to ensure the best of the area is showcased throughout the 6-day festival ~ normally taking place during the early part of May ~ this year 2nd to 6th May.
My involvement in the 2013 Speyside Whisky Festival was in the form of filming and an interview with a BBC Alba News team on the afternoon of Wednesday 1st May. I had set up my tipi just upstream of the beautiful Thomas Telford Bridge by Craigellachie and after a (very) wee dramming session, shared with some anglers, the News team were very pleased with their footage of our paddling on the river ~ back-dropped by the Telford bridge, framed with blue skies ~ a typical Speyside day!! (The news item was screened on BBC Alba ~ 7.30pm, Friday 3rd May.)
As a pre-curser to the main Festival on May 1st at the lovely Malt-Barn restaurant in Glenfiddich distillery there took place the first of 4 tasting-event for ‘Roving Whisky Awards’. At various times during the Festival and at different locations throughout Strathspey 6 fine malts were judges by visitors to the Festival. At the conclusion of the voting on the penultimate day of the festival, at a special lunch at Knockando distillery, a winner was announced from each of the three age categories.
(Whisky Award Results 2013: 0 to 12 y.o. ~ The Aberlour A’Bunadh; 12 to 20 y.o. ~ The Balvenie Doublewood 17 y.o.; 20+ y.o. ~ Glenlivet 25 y.o.)
Following my tasting and casting of votes at the Malt Barn, I spent that clear and frosty night of May 1st into 2nd under the stars, cosy in my tipi. I felt an affinity with that great engineering-genius Mr Telford, as I slept by the castellated walls of his amazing bridge ~ one of the few spanning the Spey to survive the ‘Muckle Flood’ of 1929. I wanted some quality sleep in order that I might be fully prepared to meet and work on the river the next day with my clients ~ coming from various country, as I have come to expect at the Speyside Whisky Festival.