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Best of Whisky Month

WHISKY Month is a series of 32 events running across Scotland throughout May as part of Homecoming. For full programme, see www.homecomingscotland2009.com/whiskymonth

1. SPIRIT OF SPEYSIDE WHISKY FESTIVAL, across Speyside, 1-10 May, www.spiritofspeyside.com Whisky Month kicks off in dramatic fashion with the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, celebrating its tenth birthday. The picturesque region, home to more than half of Scotland's whisky distilleries, comes alive with a series of whisky tours, tastings and food events. There are also scenic walks in the footsteps of whisky smugglers, opportunities for golfers and wildlife safaris.

The climax of the festival will see a spectacular musical event on the banks of the River Spey with musicians such as Capercaillie and Karen Matheson helping to build up to a dazzling firework display.

2. THE CLAIVE VIDIZ WHISKY COLLECTION, Scotch Whisky Experience, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, 0131-220 0441 www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk The refurbished attraction plays host to the world's largest collection of Scotch whiskies, painstakingly put together over 35 years by Brazilian enthusiast Claive Vidiz. The 3,384 bottles, on loan from Diageo for ten years, are displayed in a specially designed vault.

If you're visiting on any Friday in May, why not linger longer to enjoy the special "Enthusiasm for Scotch" tours taking place in the afternoons? Scottish tapas (a taster menu of Scottish dishes), a tutored tasting of carefully selected malts and a lesson with the special whisky tasting team are all part of the experience.

3. SPIRIT OF THE WEST, Inveraray Castle, Loch Fyne, 16 and 17 May, 0871 230 5580 www.spiritofthewest.co.uk This brand new festival celebrates 16 distilleries from Scotland's West Coast stretching from Arran and Campbeltown in the south, through the peaty malts of Islay to Talisker on Skye in the Highlands.

Needless to say, there will be plenty of opportunities to sample world-class whiskies with nosings, tastings and masterclasses from industry insiders. There are also plenty of other things to stimulate the senses, with Nick Nairn getting involved in the food and drink marquee; arts and crafts; a heritage and culture event and music from a variety of acts including the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

4. WHISKY GALORE – A MUSICAL! Pitlochry Festival Theatre, 15 May- 17 October, 01796 484 626 www.pitlochry.org.uk This year isn't just the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, it's also the 60th anniversary of the epic Ealing comedy, Whisky Galore!. A festival on Barra will celebrate this later in the year, but fans can also take in this musical in Pitlochry.

Billed as a tale of drams and dreams, the musical is based on Compton Mackenzie's novel set on the fictional island of Todday, beleaguered by the rationing of the Second World War. When a boat runs aground with 50,000 cases of whisky aboard, the islanders are quick to take advantage of the unexpected bounty and must pit their wits against the commander of the Home Guard.

5. FEIS ILE – THE ISLAY MALT AND MUSIC FESTIVAL, Islay and Jura, 23-31 May, 01496 302 413 www.islayfestival.org Towards the end of the month, Scotland's whisky island Islay gets in on the act with Feis Ile. With all eight distilleries on the island collaborating with local musicians, it's a great time to make merry.

The series of concerts, ceilidhs, children's shows, open days, guided walks and sporting events is sure to keep everyone busy but just in case, there's also a special Homecoming Parade in which Islay's Pipe Band lead a procession celebrating all the distilleries through the Main Street in Bowmore, culminating in a climax of music and ceilidh dancing.

 
 
 

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