Whisky festival’s return will raise the spirits on Speyside - George McNeil

When the record-breaking Spirit of Speyside Festival 2019 wrapped up with plans in place for the festival to continue to grow in 2020, it was impossible to predict what the future held. Fast forward two years and we are emerging from a global pandemic, I believe, stronger and more resilient than ever, with lots to look forward to.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival's chairman, George McNeil pictured at Craigellachie Bridge, Craigellachie.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival's chairman, George McNeil pictured at Craigellachie Bridge, Craigellachie.

In 2021, our former chair James Campbell who was at the helm of the Festival team for almost a decade, steered everyone through an action-packed virtual event in which nearly 900 people from across the world participated. The advantage of the digital event was that it allowed people and businesses to explore new ways of working and ensured everyone who took part could have some whisky inspired fun with some of the world's finest drams delivered to their door for attendees from the UK. However, the disadvantage was, we missed the in-person interaction, the meeting of friends, the shaking of hands and the sharing of Scotland’s national drink. This is something we absolutely will not take for granted this year. I am proud to take the baton from James as we look forward to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2022 when it returns to normality at the end of this month.

Together with the Speyside community, we are planning what is set to be the best Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival yet. It is events like ours which will be crucial to ensuring whisky tourism bounces back after such a tumultuous 24 months. The Speyside community and our wider Spirit of Speyside Festival family across the world have kept the spirit of the whisky community alive. Statistics show three out of every five tourists come to Speyside for whisky tourism, and there were 2.2 million visits to Scotch Whisky Distilleries in 2019, making the industry the third most popular attraction in Scotland, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

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The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has earned its place in the global festival calendar and since 1999 we have welcomed thousands of visitors from over 50 countries to a huge variety of whisky inspired events. This year the festival comprises over 500 events which will offer ticket holders access to world famous distilleries, many of which are not normally open to visitors, and the chance to meet the craftspeople behind the spirit. Festival-goers will be able to fully immerse themselves in the heart of malt whisky country and more, with a huge variety of distilleries and things to see and things to do. They will find long golden beaches, globally renowned textile mills, cosy seaside cafes, and world-class outdoor pursuits.

I have utmost confidence that our economy will be rebuilt. Whisky tourism and the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival are key to this bounce back. I look forward to seeing people from far and wide joining us to celebrate the world’s largest producing whisky region, from whisky novices, budding master blenders and everyone in between. It will be fantastic to welcome people once again to beautiful Speyside, an area I am lucky enough to call home.

George McNeil, Chairman, Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

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