VISITORS from 31 countries – up from 26 last year – have been flocking in to Moray for the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.
Last year, the five-day event generated £1.65 million for the local economy.
The festival, which is on course to attract the biggest crowd in its 15-year history and set a new record for ticket sales, has kicked off the national Year of Homecoming’s Whisky Month.
Chairman James Campbell said there were still plenty of opportunities for people to take part in activities from whisky tasting to ceilidh dancing, until the close of the event on Monday.
He added: "The festival has grown to become one of the most popular in the world, and its stature can only grow as a result of the association with Homecoming.
"The demand for tickets this year has taken us all by surprise. Some events were sold out very quickly, in particular tours and tastings at distilleries not usually open to the public and which are opening their doors exclusively for the festival.
"Although demand has been high there are still tickets available for events. If people want to enjoy the festival but whisky is not their thing, they can soak up the atmosphere by attending one of the music events in the programme for the Spirit of Speyside Sessions."
The Touch of Tartan opening dinner on Thursday night at Glen Grant Distillery in Rothes saw the festival officially declared open by whisky writer and expert Charlie MacLean, who had a starring role in the Ken Loach film ‘The Angels’ Share’.
Mr Campbell said that there had been an increase in ticket sales from overseas, with the USA and Canada being particularly strong. Traditional markets such as Scandinavia, Germany and Holland have also performed well.
For more details on all the events over the weekend log on to http://www.spiritofspeyside.com/