THE first of the voting sessions to determine the winners of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Awards takes place this week.
This is the only whisky festival in the world that lets the people decide.
The first session will take place on Friday (April25) at the Ugie House Hotel, Keith, at 7.30pm.
In the finals are BenRiach 12-year-old Sherry Matured and Knockando 12-year-old, in the 12 years and under category; Balvenie 15-year-old and the Singleton of Dufftown 18-year-old, in the 13 to 20 years category; and Glenfarclas 30-year-old and Cardhu 21-year-old in the 21 years and over category.
A new section for distillery special editions features Tamdhu 10-year-old, Glenfarclas 25 years old single cask bottling, and Glenfarclas 1988 Cask 4966.
For a £10 ticket, voters will blind-taste all of these and give their marks.
The awards are sponsored by coppersmiths Forsyths of Rothes – the company responsible for building many of the pot stills in which the shortlisted single malts were distilled.
Other roving judging sessions will take place at Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, on April 30; the Drouthy Cobbler, Elgin, on May 1; Aberlour Hotel, Aberlour, Richmond Memorial Hall, Tomintoul, and Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort on May 2; Stuart Arms, Dufftown, and Rothes Social Club on May 3; and Forsyths Coppersmiths, Rothes, on May 4.
Festival chairman James Campbell said: “We hope lots of people turn out to blind-taste and vote for their favourite finalists. The awards are much sought after by the distilleries, especially with the people making the decisions.”
The festival starts on Thursday, May 1, and runs through to Monday, May 5, with hundreds of events. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.spiritofspeyside.com
Last year the festival contributed £1.65 million to the local economy and attracted 32,000 visitors to events.
The Spirit of Speyside is a signature event for Scotland’s Homecoming 2014 and starts Whisky Month, a four-week national celebration of Scotland’s world-class food and drink.
Running alongside the main festival are the new Spirit of Speyside Sessions, which feature concerts and ceilidhs as part of a spotlight on the area’s traditional music heritage.