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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 04/05/2023

Almost 2,500 visitors descended on Speyside for six days of drams, with over 7,000 tickets sold for events. From distillery tours to tastings under the stars, whisky train rides, cask building, ceilidhs and much more. Of the region’s 51 distilleries, 27 opened their doors offering coveted experiences and bottlings exclusive to festival goers. Top events like "Livet Illicit" by Glenlivet Hills Trek, and intimate dinners with Johnnie Walker’s own master blender sold out within the first days on sale to guests travelling from as far afield as Hong Kong and Australia to get a taste of the famed region.

One of the largest events of its kind anywhere in the world. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival relies on the unique blend of talent in the Speyside community. From distilleries, bars and restaurants, hotels and more to create a programme of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for visitors. Visitors who cross continents to sample some of the world’s greatest whiskies in the locations they’ve been produced in for over a century.

To open the week, the whisky community came together for the “Touch of Tartan” opening dinner at Dallas Dhu Distillery on 26 April. Celebrating the iconic drams of the region with the 2023 whisky awards and providing an evening to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Speyside’s finest malts were decided by vote from judges worldwide. While Glenlivet took home the overall win for its 25-year-old single cask with notes of sweet fig and blood orange, Glen Moray’s chardonnay cask was awarded gold in the Non-Aged Statement category and Tamdhu took home gold awards for its 12 and 18-year-old single malts. Meanwhile, the race for next year’s winners has already begun - festival goers who attended Spirit of Speyside Whisky Award Tastings have now cast the first votes in determining next year’s winners from a shortlist judged by industry experts in March.

Kicking off the festival this year with a night celebrating the hard work that the whisky community does every day really is so fitting, when this festival wouldn’t be possible without them there to create the iconic tastes that bring guests to our region from around the world. The talented distillers, tour guides, ambassadors, business owners and hospitality providers – these are the people that truly encapsulate the Spirit of Speyside.

This year’s festival has surpassed all expectations. We’re thrilled to be working with partners like EventScotland, The Macallan, and Cardhu among others on a calendar of truly special events that brought more visitors than ever to Speyside this year.

George McNeil, Spirit of Speyside Festival Chairman

In a year of many firsts, the festival’s best new event for 2023 was awarded to Speyburn Distillery’s behind the scenes tour and tasting. It is notable as not just a festival first but the first time in 125 years Speyburn has opened its doors to the public, giving the world a glimpse into the distillery’s secrets.

The evening acknowledged the achievements of those who have made incredible contributions to the industry and the region. A focus on the people who have built a career through their passion for protecting one of Scotland’s deepest traditions.  John Grant, Chairman of J & G Grant is one of these esteemed individuals, whose 50 plus year commitment to the industry led to him being honoured with a Spirit of Speyside Lifetime Achievement Award. Keith Brian, who has been a huge supporter of the festival at Craigellachie Distillery, was named as the festival’s "Unsung Hero". Acknowledging that many of the outstanding contributions to Speyside distilleries come from those who provide unwavering dedication behind the scenes.

Each year, the festival names ambassadors that encapsulate the essence of Speyside. This year Richard E Forsyth was recognized as Spirit of Speyside International Ambassador for all that he has done over the years to promote the Scotch Whisky industry and the festival itself. Sandy McIntyre of Tamdhu Distillery received a standing ovation from his peers as he was named Spirit of Speyside Ambassador. His dedication to great single malt being recognised at the ceremony as the embodiment of the Spirit of Speyside.  

Visit the Spirit of Speyside to find out more about the awards or for more information on festival events.


Speyside is the perfect stage for a celebration of Scotland’s national drink, and visitors from near and far have had an excellent few days to look back on now as they enjoyed the whisky and everything else the region has to offer. Congratulations to the incredible teams that have seen their whiskies through to award-winning status, and the Spirit of Speyside team on the success of this year’s festival.

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events

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